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Like all other vertebrate groups, amphibian responses to the environment are mediated through the brain (hypothalamic)-pituitary-adrenal/interrenal (HPA/I) axis and the sympathetic nervous system. Amphibians are facing historically unprecedented environmental stress due to climate change that will involve unpredictable temperature and rainfall regimes and possible nutritional deficits due to extremes of temperature and drought. At the same time, amphibians in all parts of the world are experiencing unprecedented declines due to the emerging diseases, chytridiomycosis (caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) and ranavirus diseases due to viruses of the genus Ranavirus in the family Iridoviridae. Other pathogens and parasites also afflict amphibians, but here I will limit myself to a review of recent literature linking stress and these emerging diseases (chytridiomycosis and ranavirus disease) in order to better predict how environmental stressors and disease will affect global amphibian populations.
Copyright © 2016. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Emerging fungal pathogens pose a greater threat to biodiversity than any other parasitic group, causing declines of many taxa, including bats, corals, bees, snakes and amphibians. Currently, there is little evidence that wild animals can acquire resistance to these pathogens. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is a pathogenic fungus implicated in the recent global decline of amphibians. Here we demonstrate that three species of amphibians can acquire behavioural or immunological resistance to B. dendrobatidis. Frogs learned to avoid the fungus after just one B. dendrobatidis exposure and temperature-induced clearance. In subsequent experiments in which B. dendrobatidis avoidance was prevented, the number of previous exposures was a negative predictor of B. dendrobatidis burden on frogs and B. dendrobatidis-induced mortality, and was a positive predictor of lymphocyte abundance and proliferation. These results suggest that amphibians can acquire immunity to B. dendrobatidis that overcomes pathogen-induced immunosuppression and increases their survival. Importantly, exposure to dead fungus induced a similar magnitude of acquired resistance as exposure to live fungus. Exposure of frogs to B. dendrobatidis antigens might offer a practical way to protect pathogen-naive amphibians and facilitate the reintroduction of amphibians to locations in the wild where B. dendrobatidis persists. Moreover, given the conserved nature of vertebrate immune responses to fungi and the fact that many animals are capable of learning to avoid natural enemies, these results offer hope that other wild animal taxa threatened by invasive fungi might be rescued by management approaches based on herd immunity.
Chytridiomycosis, an amphibian skin disease caused by the emerging fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has been implicated in catastrophic global amphibian declines. The result is an alarming decrease in amphibian diversity that is a great concern for the scientific community. Clinical trials testing potential antifungal drugs are needed to identify alternative treatments for amphibians infected with this pathogen. In this study, we quantified the MICs of chloramphenicol (800 μg/ml), amphotericin B (0.8 to 1.6 μg/ml), and itraconazole (Sporanox) (20 ng/ml) against B. dendrobatidis. Both chloramphenicol and amphotericin B significantly reduced B. dendrobatidis infection in naturally infected southern leopard frogs (Rana [Lithobates] sphenocephala), although neither drug was capable of complete fungal clearance. Long-term exposure of R. sphenocephala to these drugs did not inhibit antimicrobial peptide (AMP) synthesis, indicating that neither drug is detrimental to this important innate skin defense. However, we observed that chloramphenicol, but not amphotericin B or itraconazole, inhibited the growth of multiple R. sphenocephala skin bacterial isolates in vitro at concentrations below the MIC against B. dendrobatidis. These results indicate that treatment with chloramphenicol might dramatically alter the protective natural skin microbiome when used as an antifungal agent. This study represents the first examination of the effects of alternative antifungal drug treatments on amphibian innate skin defenses, a crucial step to validating these treatments for practical applications.
Copyright © 2014, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
Fungal infections in humans, wildlife, and plants are a growing concern because of their devastating effects on human and ecosystem health. In recent years, populations of many amphibian species have declined, and some have become extinct due to chytridiomycosis caused by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. For some endangered amphibian species, captive colonies are the best intermediate solution towards eventual reintroduction, and effective antifungal treatments are needed to cure chytridiomycosis and limit the spread of this pathogen in such survival assurance colonies. Currently, the best accepted treatment for infected amphibians is itraconazole, but its toxic side effects reduce its usefulness for many species. Safer antifungal treatments are needed for disease control. Here, we show that nikkomycin Z, a chitin synthase inhibitor, dramatically alters the cell wall stability of B. dendrobatidis cells and completely inhibits growth of B. dendrobatidis at 250 μM. Low doses of nikkomycin Z enhanced the effectiveness of natural antimicrobial skin peptide mixtures tested in vitro. These studies suggest that nikkomycin Z would be an effective treatment to significantly reduce the fungal burden in frogs infected by B. dendrobatidis.
Copyright © 2013 The British Mycological Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, causes chytridiomycosis and is a major contributor to global amphibian declines. Although amphibians have robust immune defenses, clearance of this pathogen is impaired. Because inhibition of host immunity is a common survival strategy of pathogenic fungi, we hypothesized that B. dendrobatidis evades clearance by inhibiting immune functions. We found that B. dendrobatidis cells and supernatants impaired lymphocyte proliferation and induced apoptosis; however, fungal recognition and phagocytosis by macrophages and neutrophils was not impaired. Fungal inhibitory factors were resistant to heat, acid, and protease. Their production was absent in zoospores and reduced by nikkomycin Z, suggesting that they may be components of the cell wall. Evasion of host immunity may explain why this pathogen has devastated amphibian populations worldwide.
Eco-immunology is the field of study that attempts to understand the functions of the immune system in the context of the host's environment. Amphibians are currently suffering devastating declines and extinctions in nearly all parts of the world due to the emerging infectious disease chytridiomycosis caused by the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Because chytridiomycosis is a skin infection and remains confined to the skin, immune defenses of the skin are critical for survival. Skin defenses include secreted antimicrobial peptides and immunoglobulins as well as antifungal metabolites produced by symbiotic skin bacteria. Low temperatures, toxic chemicals, and stress inhibit the immune system and may impair natural defenses against B. dendrobatidis. Tadpoles' mouth parts can be infected by B. dendrobatidis. Damage to the mouth parts can impair growth, and the affected tadpoles maintain the pathogen in the environment even when adults have dispersed. Newly metamorphosing frogs appear to be especially vulnerable to infection and to the lethal effects of this pathogen because the immune system undergoes a dramatic reorganization at metamorphosis, and postmetamorphic defenses are not yet mature. Here we review our current understanding of amphibian immune defenses against B. dendrobatidis and the ability of the pathogen to resist those defenses. We also briefly review what is known about the impacts of temperature, environmental chemicals, and stress on the host-pathogen interactions and suggest future directions for research.
Amphibian species have experienced population declines and extinctions worldwide that are unprecedented in recent history. Many of these recent declines have been linked to a pathogenic skin fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or to iridoviruses of the genus Ranavirus. One of the first lines of defense against pathogens that enter by way of the skin are antimicrobial peptides synthesized and stored in dermal granular glands and secreted into the mucus following alarm or injury. Here, I review what is known about the capacity of amphibian antimicrobial peptides from diverse amphibians to inhibit B. dendrobatidis or ranavirus infections. When multiple species were compared for the effectiveness of their in vitro antimicrobial peptides defenses against B. dendrobatidis, non-declining species of rainforest amphibians had more effective antimicrobial peptides than species in the same habitat that had recently experienced population declines. Further, there was a significant correlation between the effectiveness of the antimicrobial peptides and resistance of the species to experimental infection. These studies support the hypothesis that antimicrobial peptides are an important component of innate defenses against B. dendrobatidis. Some amphibian antimicrobial peptides inhibit ranavirus infections and infection of human T lymphocytes by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). An effective antimicrobial peptide defense against skin pathogens appears to depend on a diverse array of genes expressing antimicrobial peptides. The production of antimicrobial peptides may be regulated by signals from the pathogens. However, this defense must also accommodate potentially beneficial microbes on the skin that compete or inhibit growth of the pathogens. How this delicate balancing act is accomplished is an important area of future research.
Chytridiomycosis is a globally emerging disease of amphibians and the leading cause of population declines and extirpations at species-diverse montane sites in Central America. We continued long-term monitoring efforts for the presence of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and for amphibian populations at two sites in western Panama, and we began monitoring at three new sites to the east. Population declines associated with chytridiomycosis emergence were detected at Altos de Campana National Park. We also detected Bd in three species east of the Panama Canal at Soberanía National Park, and prevalence data suggests that Bd may be enzootic in the lowlands of the park. However, no infected frogs were found further east at Tortí (prevalence <7.5% with 95% confidence). Our results suggest that Panama's diverse and not fully described amphibian communities east of the canal are at risk. Precise predictions of future disease emergence events are not possible until factors underlying disease emergence, such as dispersal, are understood. However, if the fungal pathogen spreads in a pattern consistent with previous disease events in Panama, then detection of Bd at Tortí and other areas east of the Panama Canal is imminent. Therefore, development of new management strategies and increased precautions for tourism, recreation, and biology are urgently needed.
Topical antimicrobicides hold great promise in reducing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission. Amphibian skin provides a rich source of broad-spectrum antimicrobial peptides including some that have antiviral activity. We tested 14 peptides derived from diverse amphibian species for the capacity to inhibit HIV infection. Three peptides (caerin 1.1, caerin 1.9, and maculatin 1.1) completely inhibited HIV infection of T cells within minutes of exposure to virus at concentrations that were not toxic to target cells. These peptides also suppressed infection by murine leukemia virus but not by reovirus, a structurally unrelated nonenveloped virus. Preincubation with peptides prevented viral fusion to target cells and disrupted the HIV envelope. Remarkably, these amphibian peptides also were highly effective in inhibiting the transfer of HIV by dendritic cells (DCs) to T cells, even when DCs were transiently exposed to peptides 8 h after virus capture. These data suggest that amphibian-derived peptides can access DC-sequestered HIV and destroy the virus before it can be transferred to T cells. Thus, amphibian-derived antimicrobial peptides show promise as topical inhibitors of mucosal HIV transmission and provide novel tools to understand the complex biology of HIV capture by DCs.