For more than 40 years, frog populations around the world have been declining. Now, a new study reports that some Central American frog species are recovering, perhaps because they have better defenses against a deadly fungal pathogen. A collaborative group of investigators at multiple institutions showed that the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis continues to be as lethal now as it was more than 10 years ago. The antimicrobial defenses produced by frog skin, however, appear to be more effective than they were before the fungal epidemic began. The researchers found that skin secretions from frogs in areas with endemic (established) disease were more effective against the fungus compared to skin secretions from frogs that had not been exposed to the disease. They also compared early samples of the fungus to current samples, evaluating fungal genetics, growth patterns, infectability and production of substances that inhibit frog immune responses. Understanding how amphibian species recover from an epidemic may hold clues for improving conservation strategies and confronting emerging diseases in other species.
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