Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are one of the major issues facing wildlife conservation today.
The spread of wildlife diseases is fast becoming a recognised problem. For example, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidishas is thought to have caused the extinction of almost 200 species of amphibian worldwide. Understanding the dynamics of a particular pathogen enables decisions to be made in terms of population conservation in respect to establishing habitat connectivity and mitigation projects. Without first investigating the pathogenic status of a population prior to moving individuals or connecting previously fragmented habitats, you could increase the risk of spreading diseases to new areas. In addition, screening animals in private and breeding collections can prevent expensive loses.
We currently provide a limited number of disease tests including amphibian chytrid testing (both Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) as well as crayfish plague (Aphanomyces astaci) but we are eager to expand this area of our services, and would encourage anyone with a particular need to please contact us via email to discuss.
Considerations and limitations
If you are testing the infection status of an individual organism, the test will give you a conclusive positive result based on a swab or a tissue sample taken at any time of year. If you are checking the infection status of a water body however, you need to take care how and when you sample, and always be cautious in interpreting a negative result as evidence of a waterbody being disease-free.
If testing a water body for Chytridiomycosis, this can be achieved by swabbing amphibians captured there, but you need to avoid using common frogs or smooth newts which tend not to become infected. You should also test a relatively large number of individuals – ideally around 30 – to ensure that you detect the fungus if it is present. Alternatively, you can filter the water using our eDNA kits. This has been shown to be effective in a variety of contexts for crayfish plague, Chytrid fungus and ranaviruses, but it is important that a sufficient volume is filtered and that the water samples are representative of the whole waterbody (i.e. subsampled from around the perimeter of a pond). Sampling should be carried out between April and August.