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Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis

Fungus-fighting strategy

Midwife toad tadpoles (Alytes muletensis) were treated with an antifungal agent

Jaime Bosch / National Museum of Natural SciencesMidwife toad tadpoles (Alytes muletensis) were treated with an antifungal agentJaime Bosch / National Museum of Natural Sciences

Biologists from Spain and the United Kingdom may have found a way to exterminate the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, thought to have caused the extinction of amphibian populations of roughly 700 species around the world (see Pesquisa FAPESP Issue nº 196). The researchers’ tactics include attacks on two fronts: spraying antifungal agents on tadpoles and disinfecting the environment in which they live (Biology Letters, November 18, 2015). Both strategies had already been tested separately in the past, but did not achieve the expected results, as the fungal infection later reappeared. Now, the combined treatment seems to have worked. In 2009 and 2012, tadpoles of the Majorcan midwife toad, Alytes muletensis, were collected from five lagoons on two of the Balearic Islands, off the eastern shore of Spain. They were treated with the antifungal itraconazole and returned to their native environment. The rocks near the lagoons were subsequently washed with the disinfectant Virkon S, based on potassium monopersulfate. In 2013, there was no sign of the fungus in four of the five locations where the infection had been previously reported. Although the treatment was not entirely effective, as dead toads showing signs of the infection were found, it indicates that eradicating the fungus in nature may be a viable option. The researchers will assess the potential impacts of the chemicals on other species and the environment before expanding the scope of treatment.