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A deadly frog-killing fungus probably originated in East Asia

The pandemic form of Bd chytrid likely emerged 50 to 120 years ago, a genetic study finds

By
6:14pm, May 10, 2018

RISKY TRAVELER  A genetic study now traces an amphibian-killing fungus to East Asia, from where international trade in such showy pets as this oriental fire-bellied toad could have helped launch the pathogen worldwide.

The biggest genetic study yet of a notorious frog-killing fungus says it probably originated in East Asia in the 20th century.

The chytrid fungus nicknamed Bd, which attacks the skin, has astonished biologists in the last several decades by causing sudden, mass die-offs among frogs and other amphibians in Australia, Panama and other places worldwide. But where and when the killer emerged and how it spread have been much-debated mysteries. Studies have proposed North and South America as well as Africa and Asia as the homeland where a once-obscure fungus turned deadly.

Building up enough genetic data to untangle the origins has taken some 10 years of field and lab work at about 35 institutions around the world, says infectious disease epidemiologist Simon O’Hanlon of Imperial College London. Analyzing the trove finds four main lineages of the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and reveals that the worldwide killer group, BdGPL

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