Tests improve odds in frog fungus flight

New tests developed to detect chytrid fungus infections in frogs

source: Rachel Nowak
New Scientist no 2382, February 15 2003 p18

A new test has been developed that can detect chytrid fungus infections in frogs. The fungus has led to nine or more species of frogs becoming extinct since the 1940s, and testing for the fungus has hitherto only been possible once frogs have started to sicken. The new test was developed at Canterbury University, New Zealand, by ecologist, Bruce Waldman. The test uses DNA analysis of skin cells from frogs thought to be at risk.

The new test should help protect frogs in New Zealand, where one species from the Leiopelma genus is threatened with extinction. The old-style test involved removing a frog's toe for a sample.

Another new test, which resembles that of Waldman, has been developed by biotech company, Pisces Molecular, while Australian Animal Health Laboratory's Alex Hyatt has developed a further test, that detects proteins from the fungus. The fungus may have come from South Africa, where the African clawed from can harbour infections while not falling ill.