Fungal Infection Epidemics Killing Off Many Types of Animals

luke-curtis
In the past 10 years, there have increasing reports of fungal (mold) infection epidemics killing off a high percentage of many animals. Such animals devastated by recent mold epidemics include animals as diverse as bats, frogs and bees.

The reason why deadly fungal infections in animals should be on the increase is not well known, but could be related to global warming and/or exposures to manmade chemicals. The next paragraphs will briefly mention deadly fungal epidemics affecting bats, frogs and bees.

BATS

Bats have had a bad press. Bats are a staple in horror movies and very rarely rapid bats spread rabies to humans. However, bats play a very important role in the ecosystem since they pollinate many cultivated and wild plants and eat large quantities of mosquitoes and other harmful insects.

The white fungus Geomyces destructans has been estimated to kill at least 5.7 to 6.7 million hibernating bats in the eastern US and southeastern Canada in the past 6 years. The infection is also known as “white nose syndrome”. The Geomyces destructans fungus invades the skin, disrupts several physiological functions in the bat and causes death. Some species with bats are now threatened with extinction due to this infection. The little brown bat (Mytosis lucifugus) has suffered a 91% hibernating mortality over a single winter.

FROGS

At least 200 worldwide species of frogs and salamanders are in danger of extinction due to infection with the fungus (mold) Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. This fungus infects the skin of frogs, disrupts levels of sodium and potassium in the blood, and causes death by cardiac arrest (heart stoppage). The authors Wade and Vredenburg state “ This disease (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis ) poses the greatest threat to biodiversity of any known disease.”


DeeAnn Reeder et al. Frequent arousal from hibernation linked to severity of infection and mortality in bats with white-nose syndrome. PLOS ONE June 2012;7(6):e38920. AND

Jamie Voyles et al. Pathogenesis of Chytridiomycosis, a cause of catastrophic amphibian declines. Science 23 Oct 2009; 326:582-5. AND

David Wake and Vance Vredenburg. Are we in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? A view from the world of amphibians. PNAS August 12, 2008:105(1):11466-73. AND

Jay Evans and Ryan Schwartz. Bees brought to their knees: microbes affecting honey bee health. Trends in Microbiology, December 2011;19(12):614-620. AND

Jerry Bromenshenk et al. Iridovirus and Microsporidian linked to honey bee colony decline. PLOS ONE October 2010;5(10):e13181

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