Pathogen has caused loss of species

The News-Times - - ADVICE/GAMES - Dr. Michael Fox

Chytrid­iomy­co­sis, a dis­ease caused by chytrid fungi, has caused the ex­tinc­tion of 90 species of frogs and other am­phib­ians over the past 50 years, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers from a num­ber of world­wide univer­si­ties.

The pathogen has caused huge losses of 501 species of am­phib­ians, in­clud­ing the 90 ex­tinc­tions and 124 other species whose pop­u­la­tions have de­clined by more than 90 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by an in­ter­na­tional group of sci­en­tists pub­lished in the March 29 edi­tion of the jour­nal Science (“Am­phib­ian fun­gal pan­zootic causes cat­a­strophic and on­go­ing loss of bio­di­ver­sity”). See also “Am­phib­ian ‘apoc­a­lypse’ caused by most de­struc­tive pathogen ever” (Na­tional Ge­o­graphic, March 28).

The highly con­ta­gious fun­gus eats away the am­phib­ians’ skin. Un­able to prop­erly respire, they die from car­diac ar­rest. Am­phib­ians that are re­sis­tant to it be­come car­ri­ers, mak­ing it nearly im­pos­si­ble to erad­i­cate.

In my opinion, and from a One Health vet­eri­nary per­spec­tive, this dis­ease is a symp­tom of frog and sala­man­der im­mune sys­tem dys­func­tion, enabling this fun­gus to spread rapidly un­der the fa­cil­i­ta­tive in­flu­ence of the lu­cra­tive world trade in ex­otic pets. Am­phib­ians are ex­tremely pop­u­lar as pets, but some own­ers later re­lease the an­i­mals, hav­ing lost in­ter­est, or the an­i­mals es­cape and in­fect indige­nous species.

Their im­mune and re­pro­duc­tive sys­tems have been dam­aged by agri­cul­tural petro­chem­i­cal in­sec­ti­cides. These and other chem­i­cals are in the rain, acid­i­fied with car­bon diox­ide from the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els, that falls ever more un­pre­dictably on wet­lands and jun­gle habi­tats.

The doc­u­mented dis­ap­pear­ance of in­sects due to sim­i­lar hu­man causes means many in­sec­tiv­o­rous am­phib­ians are mal­nour­ished or starv­ing. The bats of North Amer­ica dy­ing from white nose fun­gal dis­ease are ca­su­al­ties of sim­i­lar causes.

These losses mean the web of life in many ecosys­tems, the nat­u­ral bio­di­ver­sity, is be­ing de­stroyed. In the ab­sence of ad­e­quate bio­di­ver­sity con­trols — namely bats, toads and frogs — harm­ful in­sects such as mos­qui­toes and ticks pro­lif­er­ate.

The de­clin­ing qual­ity of air, wa­ter and habi­tats around the world must be ad­dressed, along with cli­mate change, for our own sakes as well as the frogs and sala­man­ders.

Dear Dr. Fox: I have a won­der­ful and lov­ing 12-year-old Weimaraner, who un­for­tu­nately has many fatty tu­mors on his body. Our vet­eri­nar­ian in­di­cated that this is a com­mon prob­lem with this breed of dogs.

Is there any­thing I could have done to pre­vent these tu­mors from de­vel­op­ing?

Is it too late to cor­rect the prob­lem now?

V.B., Palm Beach County,

Florida Dear V.B.: These fatty growths, called lipo­mas, are not can­cer­ous, but they can be­come nu­mer­ous and large in cer­tain breeds. They can re­quire sur­gi­cal re­moval when they cause dis­com­fort, in­ter­fere with the dog’s range of mo­tion and mo­bil­ity, or be­come ul­cer­ated or in­fected.

There are var­i­ous the­o­ries as to why dogs de­velop these tu­mors, in­clud­ing ge­netic/ breed sus­cep­ti­bil­ity, meta­bolic syn­drome with too much starch in the diet, neu­ter­ing, and lack of reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity.

Pend­ing a pre-sur­gi­cal risk eval­u­a­tion, your dog may be in good enough con­di­tion for surgery. But if none of the growths are caus­ing any dis­com­fort, I would not ac­cept the risk of sur­gi­cal re­moval con­sid­er­ing your dog’s age.

Write c/o Uni­ver­sal Uclick, 1130 Wal­nut St., Kansas City, MO 64106 or email an­i­mal­doc­[email protected] Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.

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