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One of the more puzzling aspects of the emergence of amphibian chytridiomycosis has been that, whereas epizootics have been widely observed, many susceptible amphibian communities apparently coexist alongside Bd with no evidence of disease. This new paper shows that the Bd genotype is also an important epidemiological determinant.

In addition, a commentary in New Scientist suggests that the global amphibian trade not only spread the lethal chytrid fungus, but may have created the disease in the first place: Frog-killer disease was born in trade.


Multiple emergences of genetically diverse amphibian-infecting chytrids include a globalized hypervirulent recombinant lineage. PNAS USA November 7, 2011
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a globally ubiquitous fungal infection that has emerged to become a primary driver of amphibian biodiversity loss. Despite widespread effort to understand the emergence of this panzootic, the origins of the infection, its patterns of global spread, and principle mode of evolution remain largely unknown. Using comparative population genomics, we discovered three deeply diverged lineages of Bd associated with amphibians. Two of these lineages were found in multiple continents and are associated with known introductions by the amphibian trade. We found that isolates belonging to one clade, the global panzootic lineage (BdGPL) have emerged across at least five continents during the 20th century and are associated with the onset of epizootics in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, and Europe. The two newly identified divergent lineages, Cape lineage (BdCAPE) and Swiss lineage (BdCH), were found to differ in morphological traits when compared against one another and BdGPL, and we show that BdGPL is hypervirulent. BdGPL uniquely bears the hallmarks of genomic recombination, manifested as extensive intergenomic phylogenetic conflict and patchily distributed heterozygosity. We postulate that contact between previously genetically isolated allopatric populations of Bd may have allowed recombination to occur, resulting in the generation, spread, and invasion of the hypervirulent BdGPL leading to contemporary disease-driven losses in amphibian biodiversity.




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