Tadpoles in danger; infectious disease found in a diverse range of frog populations

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The already declining and fragile frog population around is world is at risk from a newly identified and highly infectious disease that is found in a diverse range of frog populations globally.

According to a study led by researchers at University of Exeter and Natural History Museum and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tadpoles in at least three continents are infected with ‘protists’ – a single celled microbe known to have complex cells which store DNA in their nucleus like human cells.

This previously unidentified parasite was present in tadpole livers in both tropical and temperate sites, and across six countries in three continents and according to researchers it is a distant relative of Perkinsea sp., a marine parasites found in animals and algae.

Professor Thomas Richards from the University of Exeter explains that frog numbers are declining globally and infectious diseases are pegged as a significant factor in their decline.

“Our work has revealed a previously unidentified microbial group that infects tadpole livers in frog populations across the globe”, Richards added.

Researchers said that they now have a method to figure out if protists are the reason behind declining frog numbers in a specific region.

It is widely recognised that amphibians are among the most threatened animal groups: for example, in 2008, 32 per cent of species were listed as ‘threatened or extinct’ and 42 per cent were listed as in decline. The decline of amphibian populations, particularly frogs, is thought to suggest that Earth is currently undergoing a sixth mass extinction event.