Retreat sites of rainforest stream frogs are not a reservoir for Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in North Queensland, Australia
Chytridiomycosis is a potentially fatal disease of amphibians caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and is implicated in declines and extinctions of amphibian populations and species around the world. To cause local host extinction, a disease organism must persist at low host densities. One mechanism that could facilitate this is the ability to persist in the environment. In the laboratory, B. dendrobatidis spreads by both frog-to-frog and environment-to-frog transmission, and can persist on a number of biotic substrates. In the field, B. dendrobatidis has been detected on environmental samples taken during an epidemic, but it is not known if it persists in the environment when endemic. Retreat sites of 2 species of Australian rain forest stream frogs Litoria lesueuri and L. nannotis were sampled 0 to 3 d after occupation during the wet and dry seasons in northern Queensland, Australia, where chytridiomycosis has been endemic for at least 10 yr. The intensity and prevalence of infection in frogs during sampling were comparatively low compared with epidemics. Diagnostic quantitative polymerase chain reaction did not detect B. dendrobatidis in any retreat site samples. It thus appears that retreat sites are not a major environmental source of infection when B. dendrobatidis occurs at low prevalence and intensity on frogs. This suggests that control efforts may not need to eliminate the organism from the environment, at least when prevalence and intensity of infection are low in frogs. Simply treating hosts may be effective at controlling the disease in the wild.
KEY WORDS: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis · Amphibian chytrid fungus · Chytridiomycosis · Environmental reservoir · Disease transmission · Frogs