Athlete’s foot is killing mass amounts of frog all over the world. Athlete’s foot is a common name for a fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or “Bd” for short. Scientists worry that Bd could cause frogs to become extinct.
Athlete’s foot is killing frogs all over the world and has almost two-thirds of them in Panama. Athlete’s foot clogs frogs’ pores, which frogs use to breathe. Scientists are searching for the few frogs left in Panama.
Cori Richards-Zawacki, a professor from Tulane University who is doing fieldwork in Panama, told The Washington Post, “This sure is depressing.”
Scientists are trying to save the frog population. Roberto Ibanez, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama told The Washington Post:
“Usually when Bd appears, it kills everything it is going to kill, and quickly. It kills some species, infects others, who serve as disease vectors, as carriers, so it doesn’t go away.”
Scientists at a Panama conservation center are attempting to save the frogs. They have established a breeding program and hope to breed 500 frogs. Their goal is to release them back into the wild. However, releasing the frogs means putting them back into an environment full of Bd.
Brian Gratwicke, project coordinator for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project at the Smithsonian, told KDVR News:
“We basically have to become really good frog farmers and breed a lot of frogs. But the last thing we want to do is release these precious, expensive frogs back into wild, just to see them consumed by the fungus all over again.”
Scientists believe the fungus may have been spread by the international trade in African clawed frogs. African clawed frogs are a popular laboratory animal and pet. The African clawed frog carries the fungus but does not get sick. According to International Science Times, recent studies suggest the Bd fungus may be evolving into a deadly “superbug.” Researchers have also seen the fungus becomes more lethal when the temperature is more variable.
Scientists aren’t sure at this time how to save the frogs. Currently, they are just trying to buy time until an answer is found. Some species of frog have anti-biological agents on their skin to protect them against the fungus like the African clawed frog and the American bullfrog. Scientists have not yet figured out how to transfer that agent to the vulnerable frogs. Another solution may be a vaccine. Scientists are also thinking they may try to challenge captive frogs with the fungus. The few that survive could be bred and their offspring returned to the the wild.