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.
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