Low-load pathogen spillover predicts shifts in skin microbiome and survival of a terrestrial-breeding amphibian.
ABSTRACT: Wildlife disease dynamics are strongly influenced by the structure of host communities and their symbiotic microbiota. Conspicuous amphibian declines associated with the waterborne fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) have been observed in aquatic-breeding frogs globally. However, less attention has been given to cryptic terrestrial-breeding amphibians that have also been declining in tropical regions. By experimentally manipulating multiple tropical amphibian assemblages harbouring natural microbial communities, we tested whether Bd spillover from naturally infected aquatic-breeding frogs could lead to Bd amplification and mortality in our focal terrestrial-breeding host: the pumpkin toadlet Brachycephalus pitanga. We also tested whether the strength of spillover could vary depending on skin bacterial transmission within host assemblages. Terrestrial-breeding toadlets acquired lethal spillover infections from neighbouring aquatic hosts and experienced dramatic but generally non-protective shifts in skin bacterial composition primarily attributable to their Bd infections. By contrast, aquatic-breeding amphibians maintained mild Bd infections and higher survival, with shifts in bacterial microbiomes that were unrelated to Bd infections. Our results indicate that Bd spillover from even mildly infected aquatic-breeding hosts may lead to dysbiosis and mortality in terrestrial-breeding species, underscoring the need to further investigate recent population declines of terrestrial-breeding amphibians in the tropics.
Project description:While global amphibian declines are associated with the spread of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), undetected concurrent co-infection by other pathogens may be little recognized threats to amphibians. Emerging viruses in the genus Ranavirus (Rv) also cause die-offs of amphibians and other ectotherms, but the extent of their distribution globally, or how co-infections with Bd impact amphibians are poorly understood. We provide the first report of Bd and Rv co-infection in South America, and the first report of Rv infections in the amphibian biodiversity hotspot of the Peruvian Andes, where Bd is associated with extinctions. Using these data, we tested the hypothesis that Bd or Rv parasites facilitate co-infection, as assessed by parasite abundance or infection intensity within individual adult frogs. Co-infection occurred in 30% of stream-dwelling frogs; 65% were infected by Bd and 40% by Rv. Among terrestrial, direct-developing Pristimantis frogs 40% were infected by Bd, 35% by Rv, and 20% co-infected. In Telmatobius frogs harvested for the live-trade 49% were co-infected, 92% were infected by Bd, and 53% by Rv. Median Bd and Rv loads were similar in both wild (Bd = 101.2 Ze, Rv = 102.3 viral copies) and harvested frogs (Bd = 103.1 Ze, Rv = 102.7 viral copies). While neither parasite abundance nor infection intensity were associated with co-infection patterns in adults, these data did not include the most susceptible larval and metamorphic life stages. These findings suggest Rv distribution is global and that co-infection among these parasites may be common. These results raise conservation concerns, but greater testing is necessary to determine if parasite interactions increase amphibian vulnerability to secondary infections across differing life stages, and constitute a previously undetected threat to declining populations. Greater surveillance of parasite interactions may increase our capacity to contain and mitigate the impacts of these and other wildlife diseases.
Project description:Host-generalist pathogens sporadically infect naive hosts, potentially triggering epizootics. The waterborne fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is linked to declines of hundreds of amphibian species with aquatic larvae. Although several population declines and extinctions attributed to Bd have been reported among cryptic species undergoing direct development away from water, epidemiological studies focused on these terrestrial frogs are lacking. Our field data support that terrestrial direct-developing hosts are less exposed to Bd during their ontogeny than species with aquatic larvae, and thus they might lack adaptive responses against waterborne chytrids. Using controlled laboratory experiments, we exposed wild-caught amphibian species with terrestrial and aquatic life histories to Bd and found that direct developers showed more rapid increases in infection loads and experienced higher mortality rates than species with aquatic larvae. Our findings provide novel information about host responses to generalist pathogens and specifically show that our focal direct developing species have low resistance to Bd infections. Finally, our results underscore that we should not ignore Bd as a potential threat to direct developing species simply because they are less exposed to Bd in nature; instead future amphibian conservation plans should include efforts to safeguard hundreds of direct-developing amphibian species globally.
Project description:Emerging infectious disease is a growing threat to global health, and recent discoveries reveal that the microbiota dwelling on and within hosts can play an important role in health and disease. To understand the capacity of skin bacteria to protect amphibian hosts from the fungal disease chytridiomycosis caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), we isolated 192 bacterial morphotypes from the skin of 28 host species of frogs (families Bufonidae, Centrolenidae, Hemiphractidae, Hylidae, Leptodactylidae, Strabomantidae, and Telmatobiidae) collected from the eastern slopes of the Peruvian Andes (540-3,865 m a.s.l.) in the Kosñipata Valley near Manu National Park, a site where we previously documented the collapse of montane frog communities following chytridiomycosis epizootics. We obtained isolates through agar culture from skin swabs of wild frogs, and identified bacterial isolates by comparing 16S rRNA sequences against the GenBank database using BLAST. We identified 178 bacterial strains of 38 genera, including 59 bacterial species not previously reported from any amphibian host. The most common bacterial isolates were species of Pseudomonas, Paenibacillus, Chryseobacterium, Comamonas, Sphingobacterium, and Stenotrophomonas. We assayed the anti-fungal abilities of 133 bacterial isolates from 26 frog species. To test whether cutaneous bacteria might inhibit growth of the fungal pathogen, we used a local Bd strain isolated from the mouthparts of stream-dwelling tadpoles (Hypsiboas gladiator, Hylidae). We quantified Bd-inhibition in vitro with co-culture assays. We found 20 bacterial isolates that inhibited Bd growth, including three isolates not previously known for such inhibitory abilities. Anti-Bd isolates occurred on aquatic and terrestrial breeding frogs across a wide range of elevations (560-3,695 m a.s.l.). The inhibitory ability of anti-Bd isolates varied considerably. The proportion of anti-Bd isolates was lowest at mid-elevations (6%), where amphibian declines have been steepest, and among hosts that are highly susceptible to chytridiomycosis (0-14%). Among non-susceptible species, two had the highest proportion of anti-Bd isolates (40 and 45%), but one common and non-susceptible species had a low proportion (13%). In conclusion, we show that anti-Bd bacteria are widely distributed elevationally and phylogenetically across frog species that have persisted in a region where chytridiomycosis emerged, caused a devastating epizootic and continues to infect amphibians.
Project description:The 'dilution effect' (DE) hypothesis predicts that diverse host communities will show reduced disease. The underlying causes of pathogen dilution are complex, because they involve non-additive (driven by host interactions and differential habitat use) and additive (controlled by host species composition) mechanisms. Here, we used measures of complementarity and selection traditionally employed in the field of biodiversity-ecosystem function (BEF) to quantify the net effect of host diversity on disease dynamics of the amphibian-killing fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). Complementarity occurs when average infection load in diverse host assemblages departs from that of each component species in uniform populations. Selection measures the disproportionate impact of a particular species in diverse assemblages compared with its performance in uniform populations, and therefore has strong additive and non-additive properties. We experimentally infected tropical amphibian species of varying life histories, in single- and multi-host treatments, and measured individual Bd infection loads. Host diversity reduced Bd infection in amphibians through a mechanism analogous to complementarity (sensu BEF), potentially by reducing shared habitat use and transmission among hosts. Additionally, the selection component indicated that one particular terrestrial species showed reduced infection loads in diverse assemblages at the expense of neighbouring aquatic hosts becoming heavily infected. By partitioning components of diversity, our findings underscore the importance of additive and non-additive mechanisms underlying the DE.
Project description:Many amphibian species are at risk of extinction in their natural habitats due to the presence of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). For the most highly endangered species, captive assurance colonies have been established as an emergency measure to avoid extinction. Experimental research has suggested that symbiotic microorganisms in the skin of amphibians play a key role against Bd. While previous studies have addressed the effects of captivity on the cutaneous bacterial community, it remains poorly studied whether and how captive conditions affect the proportion of beneficial bacteria or their anti-Bd performance on amphibian hosts. In this study we sampled three amphibian species of the highly threatened genus, Atelopus, that remain in the wild but are also part of ex situ breeding programs in Colombia and Ecuador. Our goals were to (1) estimate the diversity of culturable bacterial assemblages in these three species of Atelopus, (2) describe the effect of captivity on the composition of skin microbiota, and (3) examine how captivity affects the bacterial ability to inhibit Bd growth. Using challenge assays we tested each bacterial isolate against Bd, and through sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene, we identified species from thirteen genera of bacteria that inhibited Bd growth. Surprisingly, we did not detect a reduction in skin bacteria diversity in captive frogs. Moreover, we found that frogs in captivity still harbor bacteria with anti-Bd activity. Although the scope of our study is limited to a few species and to the culturable portion of the bacterial community, our results indicate that captive programs do not necessarily change bacterial communities of the toad skins in a way that impedes the control of Bd in case of an eventual reintroduction.
Project description:Symbiotic microbes can dramatically impact host health and fitness, and recent research in a diversity of systems suggests that different symbiont community structures may result in distinct outcomes for the host. In amphibians, some symbiotic skin bacteria produce metabolites that inhibit the growth of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a cutaneous fungal pathogen that has caused many amphibian population declines and extinctions. Treatment with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) prevents Bd infection in some amphibian species and creates optimism for conservation of species that are highly susceptible to chytridiomycosis, the disease caused by Bd. In a laboratory experiment, we used Bd-inhibitory bacteria from Bd-tolerant Panamanian amphibians in a probiotic development trial with Panamanian golden frogs, Atelopus zeteki, a species currently surviving only in captive assurance colonies. Approximately 30% of infected golden frogs survived Bd exposure by either clearing infection or maintaining low Bd loads, but this was not associated with probiotic treatment. Survival was instead related to initial composition of the skin bacterial community and metabolites present on the skin. These results suggest a strong link between the structure of these symbiotic microbial communities and amphibian host health in the face of Bd exposure and also suggest a new approach for developing amphibian probiotics.
Project description:Anthropogenic and natural stressors often interact to affect organisms. Amphibian populations are undergoing unprecedented declines and extinctions with pesticides and emerging infectious diseases implicated as causal factors. Although these factors often co-occur, their effects on amphibians are usually examined in isolation. We hypothesized that exposure of larval and metamorphic amphibians to ecologically relevant concentrations of pesticide mixtures would increase their post-metamorphic susceptibility to the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), a pathogen that has contributed to amphibian population declines worldwide. We exposed five anuran species (Pacific treefrog, Pseudacris regilla; spring peeper, Pseudacris crucifer; Cascades frog, Rana cascadae; northern leopard frog, Lithobates pipiens; and western toad, Anaxyrus boreas) from three families to mixtures of four common insecticides (chlorpyrifos, carbaryl, permethrin, and endosulfan) or herbicides (glyphosate, acetochlor, atrazine, and 2,4-D) or a control treatment, either as tadpoles or as newly metamorphic individuals (metamorphs). Subsequently, we exposed animals to Bd or a control inoculate after metamorphosis and compared survival and Bd load. Bd exposure significantly increased mortality in Pacific treefrogs, spring peepers, and western toads, but not in Cascades frogs or northern leopard frogs. However, the effects of pesticide exposure on mortality were negligible, regardless of the timing of exposure. Bd load varied considerably across species; Pacific treefrogs, spring peepers, and western toads had the highest loads, whereas Cascades frogs and northern leopard frogs had the lowest loads. The influence of pesticide exposure on Bd load depended on the amphibian species, timing of pesticide exposure, and the particular pesticide treatment. Our results suggest that exposure to realistic pesticide concentrations has minimal effects on Bd-induced mortality, but can alter Bd load. This result could have broad implications for risk assessment of amphibians; the outcome of exposure to multiple stressors may be unpredictable and can differ between species and life stages.
Project description:Host-associated microbiotas of vertebrates are diverse and complex communities that contribute to host health. In particular, for amphibians, cutaneous microbial communities likely play a significant role in pathogen defense; however, our ecological understanding of these communities is still in its infancy. Here, we take advantage of the fully endemic and locally species-rich amphibian fauna of Madagascar to investigate the factors structuring amphibian skin microbiota on a large scale. Using amplicon-based sequencing, we evaluate how multiple host species traits and site factors affect host bacterial diversity and community structure. Madagascar is home to over 400 native frog species, all of which are endemic to the island; more than 100 different species are known to occur in sympatry within multiple rainforest sites. We intensively sampled frog skin bacterial communities, from over 800 amphibians from 89 species across 30 sites in Madagascar during three field visits, and found that skin bacterial communities differed strongly from those of the surrounding environment. Richness of bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and phylogenetic diversity differed among host ecomorphs, with arboreal frogs exhibiting lower richness and diversity than terrestrial and aquatic frogs. Host ecomorphology was the strongest factor influencing microbial community structure, with host phylogeny and site parameters (latitude and elevation) explaining less but significant portions of the observed variation. Correlation analysis and topological congruency analyses revealed little to no phylosymbiosis for amphibian skin microbiota. Despite the observed geographic variation and low phylosymbiosis, we found particular OTUs that were differentially abundant between particular ecomorphs. For example, the genus Pigmentiphaga (Alcaligenaceae) was significantly enriched on arboreal frogs, Methylotenera (Methylophilaceae) was enriched on aquatic frogs, and Agrobacterium (Rhizobiaceae) was enriched on terrestrial frogs. The presence of shared bacterial OTUs across geographic regions for selected host genera suggests the presence of core microbial communities which in Madagascar, might be driven more strongly by a species' preference for specific microhabitats than by the physical, physiological or biochemical properties of their skin. These results corroborate that both host and environmental factors are driving community assembly of amphibian cutaneous microbial communities, and provide an improved foundation for elucidating their role in disease resistance.
Project description:For decades, Amphibians have been globally threatened by the still expanding infectious disease, chytridiomycosis. Madagascar is an amphibian biodiversity hotspot where Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has only recently been detected. While no Bd-associated population declines have been reported, the risk of declines is high when invasive virulent lineages become involved. Cutaneous bacteria contribute to host innate immunity by providing defense against pathogens for numerous animals, including amphibians. Little is known, however, about the cutaneous bacterial residents of Malagasy amphibians and the functional capacity they have against Bd. We cultured 3179 skin bacterial isolates from over 90 frog species across Madagascar, identified them via Sanger sequencing of approximately 700 bp of the 16S rRNA gene, and characterized their functional capacity against Bd. A subset of isolates was also tested against multiple Bd genotypes. In addition, we applied the concept of herd immunity to estimate Bd-associated risk for amphibian communities across Madagascar based on bacterial antifungal activity. We found that multiple bacterial isolates (39% of all isolates) cultured from the skin of Malagasy frogs were able to inhibit Bd. Mean inhibition was weakly correlated with bacterial phylogeny, and certain taxonomic groups appear to have a high proportion of inhibitory isolates, such as the Enterobacteriaceae, Pseudomonadaceae, and Xanthamonadaceae (84, 80, and 75% respectively). Functional capacity of bacteria against Bd varied among Bd genotypes; however, there were some bacteria that showed broad spectrum inhibition against all tested Bd genotypes, suggesting that these bacteria would be good candidates for probiotic therapies. We estimated Bd-associated risk for sampled amphibian communities based on the concept of herd immunity. Multiple amphibian communities, including those in the amphibian diversity hotspots, Andasibe and Ranomafana, were estimated to be below the 80% herd immunity threshold, suggesting they may be at higher risk to chytridiomycosis if a lethal Bd genotype emerges in Madagascar. While this predictive approach rests on multiple assumptions, and incorporates only one component of hosts' defense against Bd, their culturable cutaneous bacterial defense, it can serve as a foundation for continued research on Bd-associated risk for the endemic frogs of Madagascar.
Project description:The pathogenic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) can cause precipitous population declines in its amphibian hosts. Responses of individuals to infection vary greatly with the capacity of their immune system to respond to the pathogen. We used a combination of comparative and experimental approaches to identify major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC-II) alleles encoding molecules that foster the survival of Bd-infected amphibians. We found that Bd-resistant amphibians across four continents share common amino acids in three binding pockets of the MHC-II antigen-binding groove. Moreover, strong signals of selection acting on these specific sites were evident among all species co-existing with the pathogen. In the laboratory, we experimentally inoculated Australian tree frogs with Bd to test how each binding pocket conformation influences disease resistance. Only the conformation of MHC-II pocket 9 of surviving subjects matched those of Bd-resistant species. This MHC-II conformation thus may determine amphibian resistance to Bd, although other MHC-II binding pockets also may contribute to resistance. Rescuing amphibian biodiversity will depend on our understanding of amphibian immune defence mechanisms against Bd. The identification of adaptive genetic markers for Bd resistance represents an important step forward towards that goal.