Batrachochytrium fungi: stealth invaders in amphibian skin.


Amphibian populations around the world have been affected by two pathogenic fungi within the phylum Chytridiomycota. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has infected hundreds of species and led to widespread declines and some species extinctions. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) has devastated some native European salamanders, especially the iconic fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra). Comparative genomic studies show that Bd is more diverse and widespread than previously thought, and global lineages occur together allowing for the development of hybrid lineages. New studies raise the concern of greater pathogenesis if both Bd and Bsal infect the same host. Although amphibians possess robust immune defenses, co-infected and many single-infected hosts seem unable to mount effective immune responses. A strong defense may actually be harmful. Analysis of Bd and Bsal secretions documents small metabolites that signal high density to limit their growth and to suppress adaptive immune defenses, thus enabling a stealth presence in the skin compartment.