Duplex real-time PCR for rapid simultaneous detection of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans in Amphibian samples.
ABSTRACT: Chytridiomycosis is a lethal fungal disease contributing to declines and extinctions of amphibian species worldwide. The currently used molecular screening tests for chytridiomycosis fail to detect the recently described species Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans. In this study, we present a duplex real-time PCR that allows the simultaneous detection of B. salamandrivorans and Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. With B. dendrobatidis- and B. salamandrivorans-specific primers and probes, detection of the two pathogens in amphibian samples is possible, with a detection limit of 0.1 genomic equivalent of zoospores of both pathogens per PCR. The developed real-time PCR shows high degrees of specificity and sensitivity, high linear correlations (r(2) > 0.995), and high amplification efficiencies (>94%) for B. dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans. In conclusion, the described duplex real-time PCR can be used to detect DNA of B. dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans with highly reproducible and reliable results.
Project description:Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans are important amphibian pathogens responsible for morbidity and mortality in free-ranging and captive frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. While B. dendrobatidis has a widespread global distribution, B. salamandrivorans has only been detected in amphibians in Asia and Europe. Although molecular detection methods for these fungi are well-characterized, differentiation of the morphologically similar organisms in the tissues of affected amphibians is incredibly difficult. Moreover, an accurate tool to identify and differentiate Batrachochytrium in affected amphibian tissues is essential for a specific diagnosis of the causative agent in chytridiomycosis cases. To address this need, an automated dual-plex chromogenic RNAScope® in situ hybridization (ISH) assay was developed and characterized for simultaneous detection and differentiation of B. dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans. The assay, utilizing double Z target probe pairs designed to hybridize to 28S rRNA sequences, was specific for the identification of both organisms in culture and in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded amphibian tissues. The assay successfully identified organisms in tissue samples from five salamander and one frog species preserved in formalin for up to 364 days and was sensitive for the detection of Batrachochytrium in animals with qPCR loads as low as 1.1 × 102 zoospores/microliter. ISH staining of B. salamandrivorans also highlighted the infection of dermal cutaneous glands, a feature not observed in amphibian B. dendrobatidis cases and which may play an important role in B. salamandrivorans pathogenesis in salamanders. The developed ISH assay will benefit both amphibian chytridiomycosis surveillance projects and pathogenesis studies by providing a reliable tool for Batrachochytrium differentiation in tissues.
Project description:The current biodiversity crisis encompasses a sixth mass extinction event affecting the entire class of amphibians. The infectious disease chytridiomycosis is considered one of the major drivers of global amphibian population decline and extinction and is thought to be caused by a single species of aquatic fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. However, several amphibian population declines remain unexplained, among them a steep decrease in fire salamander populations (Salamandra salamandra) that has brought this species to the edge of local extinction. Here we isolated and characterized a unique chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. nov., from this salamander population. This chytrid causes erosive skin disease and rapid mortality in experimentally infected fire salamanders and was present in skin lesions of salamanders found dead during the decline event. Together with the closely related B. dendrobatidis, this taxon forms a well-supported chytridiomycete clade, adapted to vertebrate hosts and highly pathogenic to amphibians. However, the lower thermal growth preference of B. salamandrivorans, compared with B. dendrobatidis, and resistance of midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) to experimental infection with B. salamandrivorans suggest differential niche occupation of the two chytrid fungi.
Project description:Real-time quantitative PCR studies largely depend on reference genes for the normalization of gene expression. Stable reference genes should be accurately selected in order to obtain reliable results. We here present a study screening commonly used reference genes (TEF1F, ?-centractin, Ctsyn1, GAPDH, R6046, APRT and TUB) in the chytrid fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which cause the lethal amphibian skin disease chytridiomycosis. We evaluated the stability of the reference gene candidates during different growth stages of the fungi, using different statistical software packages: ?CT, BestKeeper, GeNorm, NormFinder and RefFinder. In order to reflect the in vivo situation, the stability of the candidates was assessed when taking all growth stages into account. Using an ex-vivo approach, we tested whether the expression of GAPDH, TUB, R6046 and APRT (Bd) and GAPDH, TUB, R6046 and ?-centractin (Bsal) remained stable when these fungi came in contact with host tissue. Finally, their role as in vivo reference genes was examined in skin tissue of experimentally infected midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans) (Bd) and fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) (Bsal). Summarized, the present study provides guidance for selecting appropriate reference genes when analyzing expression patterns of these fungal organisms during different growth stages and in Bd- or Bsal-infected tissues.
Project description:The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) causes chytridiomycosis, a lethal epizootic disease of amphibians. Rapid identification of the pathogen and biosecurity is essential to prevent its spread, but current laboratory-based tests are time-consuming and require specialist equipment. Here, we describe the generation of an IgM monoclonal antibody (mAb), 5C4, specific to Bd as well as the related salamander and newt pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). The mAb, which binds to a glycoprotein antigen present on the surface of zoospores, sporangia and zoosporangia, was used to develop a lateral-flow assay (LFA) for rapid (15 min) detection of the pathogens. The LFA detects known lineages of Bd and also Bsal, as well as the closely related fungus Homolaphlyctis polyrhiza, but does not detect a wide range of related and unrelated fungi and oomycetes likely to be present in amphibian habitats. When combined with a simple swabbing procedure, the LFA was 100% accurate in detecting the water-soluble 5C4 antigen present in skin, foot and pelvic samples from frogs, newts and salamanders naturally infected with Bd or Bsal. Our results demonstrate the potential of the portable LFA as a rapid qualitative assay for tracking these amphibian pathogens and as an adjunct test to nucleic acid-based detection methods.
Project description:Global amphibian populations are being decimated by chytridiomycosis, a deadly skin infection caused by the fungal pathogens Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal). Although ongoing efforts are attempting to limit the spread of these infections, targeted treatments are necessary to manage the disease. Currently, no tools for genetic manipulation are available to identify and test specific drug targets in these fungi. To facilitate the development of genetic tools in Bd and Bsal, we have tested five commonly used antibiotics with available resistance genes: Hygromycin, Blasticidin, Puromycin, Zeocin, and Neomycin. We have identified effective concentrations of each for selection in both liquid culture and on solid media. These concentrations are within the range of concentrations used for selecting genetically modified cells from a variety of other eukaryotic species.
Project description:Recent worldwide declines and extinctions of amphibian populations have been attributed to chytridiomycosis, a disease caused by the pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Until recently, Bd was thought to be the only Batrachochytrium species that infects amphibians; however a newly described species, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bs), is linked to die-offs in European fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra). Little is known about the distribution, host range, or origin of Bs. In this study, we surveyed populations of an aquatic salamander that is declining in the United States, the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis), for the presence of Bs and Bd. Skin swabs were collected from a total of 91 individuals in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, and tested for both pathogens using duplex qPCR. Bs was not detected in any samples, suggesting it was not present in these hellbender populations (0% prevalence, 95% confidence intervals of 0.0-0.04). Bd was found on 22 hellbenders (24% prevalence, 95% confidence intervals of 0.16 ? 0.24 ? 0.34), representing all four states. All positive samples had low loads of Bd zoospores (12.7 ± 4.9 S.E.M. genome equivalents) compared to other Bd susceptible species. More research is needed to determine the impact of Batrachochytrium infection on hellbender fitness and population viability. In particular, understanding how hellbenders limit Bd infection intensity in an aquatic environment may yield important insights for amphibian conservation. This study is among the first to evaluate the distribution of Bs in the United States, and is consistent with another, which failed to detect Bs in the U.S. Knowledge about the distribution, host-range, and origin of Bs may help control the spread of this pathogen, especially to regions of high salamander diversity, such as the eastern United States.
Project description:Histology is often underappreciated for the detection of the amphibian pathogenic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the cause of the potentially lethal skin disease chytridiomycosis. We evaluated the sensitivity of histology to detect chytrids in 20 wild specimens of 2 frog species from Uruguay that were clinically normal, but confirmed by PCR to be infected by B. dendrobatidis. We detected maturing and sporulated sporangia in 15 of 20 (75%) frogs, which is more sensitive than previously reported for histology. The effort needed to identify chytrids in histologic skin sections of Physalaemus henselii and Pleurodema bibroni required examination of 3.2 and 8.7 mm of skin sections for each frog species, respectively.
Project description:Many climate change models predict increases in frequency and magnitude of temperature fluctuations that might impact how ectotherms are affected by disease. Shifts in temperature might especially affect amphibians, a group with populations that have been challenged by several pathogens. Because amphibian hosts invest more in immunity at warmer than cooler temperatures and parasites might acclimate to temperature shifts faster than hosts (creating lags in optimal host immunity), researchers have hypothesized that a temperature shift from cold-to-warm might result in increased amphibian sensitivity to pathogens, whereas a shift from warm-to-cold might result in decreased sensitivity. Support for components of this climate-variability based hypothesis have been provided by prior studies of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) that causes the disease chytridiomycosis in amphibians. We experimentally tested whether temperature shifts before exposure to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) alters susceptibility to the disease chytridiomycosis in the larval stage of two amphibian species-western toads (Anaxyrus boreas) and northern red legged frogs (Rana aurora). Both host species harbored elevated Bd infection intensities under constant cold (15° C) temperature in comparison to constant warm (20° C) temperature. Additionally, both species experienced an increase in Bd infection abundance after shifted from 15° C to 20° C, compared to a constant 20° C but they experienced a decrease in Bd after shifted from 20° C to 15° C, compared to a constant 15° C. These results are in contrast to prior studies of adult amphibians highlighting the potential for species and stage differences in the temperature-dependence of chytridiomycosis.
Project description:One of the most important factors driving amphibian declines worldwide is the infectious disease, chytridiomycosis. Two fungi have been associated with this disease, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans (Bsal). The latter has recently driven Salamandra salamandra populations to extirpation in parts of the Netherlands, and Belgium, and potentially also in Germany. Bsal has been detected in the pet trade, which has been hypothesized to be the pathway by which it reached Europe, and which may continuously contribute to its spread. In the present study, 918 amphibians belonging to 20 captive collections in Germany and Sweden were sampled to explore the extent of Bsal presence in captivity. The fungus was detected by quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) in ten collections, nine of which lacked clinical symptoms. 23 positives were confirmed by independent processing of duplicate swabs, which were analysed in a separate laboratory, and/or by sequencing ITS and 28?S gene segments. These asymptomatic positives highlight the possibility of Bsal being widespread in captive collections, and is of high conservation concern. This finding may increase the likelihood of the pathogen being introduced from captivity into the wild, and calls for according biosecurity measures. The detection of Bsal-positive alive specimens of the hyper-susceptible fire salamander could indicate the existence of a less aggressive Bsal variant or the importance of environmental conditions for infection progression.
Project description:Chytridiomycosis is an emerging infectious disease of amphibians caused by the chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). The disease has been associated with global amphibian declines and is driving the species in the wild to extinction. Using DNA microarray technology we have analysed transcriptional changes in Xenopus tropicalis during the course (7 and 42 days) of infection by Bd under warm (26oC) and cold (18oC) temperatures.