Bd is the acronym given to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a fungus which causes chytridiomycosis, a deadly disease to amphibians. Bd is spread through the water, and latches on to amphibians, multiplying over the surface of their skin. As amphibians use their skin to breathe, the resulting ulcers and change in the skin’s ability to synthesise molecules can trigger heart attacks. This deadly mechanism has resulted in a decline of 6.5 percent of the world’s amphibian species.
Doctor Ben Scheele and a team of researchers at the Australian National University’s College of Science wrote a paper on the devastating nature of the disease.
Titled “Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity” they explained the deadly nature of the disease and how it is able to spread.
According to them, widespread industrial trade has facilitated Bd’s deadly journey around the world.
The resulting spread of chytridiomycosis is responsible for the decline of “at least 501 amphibian species over the past half-century, including 90 presumed extinctions”.
Dr Scheele writes: “The effects of chytridiomycosis have been greatest in large-bodied, range-restricted anurans (tailless amphibians) in wet climates in the Americas and Australia.
“Declines peaked in the 1980s, and only 12 percent of declined species show signs of recovery, whereas 39 percent are experiencing an ongoing decline.
“There is a risk of further chytridiomycosis outbreaks in new areas.
“The chytridiomycosis panzootic (animal pandemic) represents the greatest recorded loss of biodiversity attributable to a disease.”
Could Bd spread to humans?
Humans are the prime facilitators of Bd’s development around the globe, via shipping, a previous trend of live-frog pregnancy tests and the amphibian meat and pet industries.
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is however tied strictly to frogs and amphibious species, so humans have no need to worry about infection from Bd specifically.
On the other hand, fungus species have been increasingly deadly to the human population in recent years.
Cryptococcus neoformans is one such fungus known to infect – and even kill – humans.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) C neoformans is found naturally and multiplies in various environments and countries – such as soil, decaying wood and tree hollows.
This means many people will breathe in the tiny fungus particulates throughout their life just by being outside.
Most people won’t get infected, but people with compromised immune systems (AIDS, HIV sufferers or those on immune system weakening medication) may get a brain infection named cryptococcal meningitis which can be deadly if left untreated.