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A devastating fungal disease called chytridiomycosis is wiping out amphibian species around the world—including the charismatic Panamanian golden frog, now nearly extinct in the wild.

Some species, like the golden frog, are especially susceptible to the deadly fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, but others can resist 

Genetics Reveal Effects of Deadly Frog Fungus

July 21, 2015

20150721-ZamudioFrog-600x298.jpg

A devastating fungal disease called chytridiomycosis is wiping out amphibian species around the world—including the charismatic Panamanian golden frog, now nearly extinct in the wild.

Some species, like the golden frog, are especially susceptible to the deadly fungus that causes chytridiomycosis, but others can resist and survive exposure. Lack of immune response in the vulnerable species may not be the problem, say Cornell researchers.

Working with the Maryland Zoo’s captive breeding program, a team of scientists led by Kelly Zamudio sequenced the genes of golden frogs with different infection histories. Infected frogs showed thousands of changes in their genes—including an array of immune genes—when compared to a control group. While some immune genes were more active, important genes related to immune defense were suppressed.

“This is the first time we have seen that susceptibility is not a lack of immune response,” said Amy Ellison, a postdoc in Zamudio’s lab and lead author of the team’s recent paper on the findings. “[The frogs] are responding, but the fungus may be countering these immune responses,” leading to overwhelming disease outbreaks.

The researchers’ next step is similar analysis of resistant species to discover which genes are switched on and off. Important differences in how the resistant frogs respond to infection could point scientists toward ways to protect the Panamanian golden frog and endangered amphibian species around the world.

Read more in the Cornell Chronicle.