In the new research, the scientists studied the spread of Bd in midwife toads (Alytes obstetricians) living on the Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal. Midwife toads are common in Europe and are a vital part of the ecosystem, providing predators with food and preying on insect pests. The new study shows that the disease is spread patchily across much of the area but in some locations, such as the Pyrenees, the disease is found in clusters, where it is threatening local toad populations. Although the researchers found no link between the presence of infection and climate, they did show that the disease is much more dangerous for toads living at high altitudes. Although no midwife toads died at low altitudes in the region covered by this study, the disease has been fatal to other amphibian species in lowland areas around the world.
Dr Matthew Fisher, corresponding author of the study from the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Imperial College London, said: "Chytridiomycosis is a serious problem for amphibians all over the world and the disease is causing extinctions at a shocking rate. At the moment, we have no prevention or cure for Bd infection in the wild so we need to act fast to stop it from spreading to otherwise healthy populations.
"We identified infected midwife toads across the Iberian Peninsula, but the infection was much more likely to be fatal in toads that live at high altitudes, such as in mountain ranges. These areas are often tourist hotspots, and if people are walking along footpaths and visiting different lakes, they may be spreading the infection unwittingly.
"In order to limit the devastation this fungus could potentially cause, we need to invest money and expertise in stopping it from spreading. Simple measures, such as disinfecting tourists'
|Contact: Lucy Goodchild|
Imperial College London