Could a virus end an amphibian pandemic?

Researchers found a virus that attacks a fungus that has devasted amphibians around the world

A fungal disease has devastated amphibian populations around the world, but researchers believe they have discovered a virus that could attack the fungus and put an end to the pandemic.

In a study published in Current Biology, biologists describe the discovery of a virus that infects the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis fungus, or Bd. They believe it could be engineered to combat the disease.

Bd has contributed to the decline of over 500 amphibian species, and 90 possible extinctions including the yellow-legged mountain frog (Rana muscosa) in the Sierras and the Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki).

Researchers discovered the virus when they were studying the genetics of the fungus and found some DNA sequences bore the hallmarks of a viral genome. They hope to clone the virus and see if a manually infected strain of Bd produces fewer spores.

“We are hoping to assist nature in taking its course,” said study author Mark Yacoub, a microbiology doctoral student at the University of California, Riverside.

Read more from the University of California, Riverside.

Header Image: The yellow-legged mountain frog (Rana muscosa) has declined dramatically due to a fungal disease caused by the Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis fungus. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildllife Service.