Pathogen Detection Response
What happens if a pathogen is detected in your facility?
First, regardless of whether any pathogens are detected, Washington State University and the University of Tennessee (the researchers) will remain blinded to the identity of all participants.
Second, we hope you will take steps to mitigate the risk of pathogen spread and to treat affected animals. We provide background information on the pathogens as well as general treatment guidelines so that you can make informed decisions. The researchers are also available to discuss options indirectly, via our intermediary at the Pet Advocacy Network, or directly, in which case you would lose your anonymity. However, please keep in mind that we are not veterinarians. We recommend consulting veterinary staff prior to treating animals with any medication.
Third, Bsal represents a uniquely serious risk. While ranaviruses and Bd have been found in North America in the wild and in captivity, Bsal has yet to be detected in the United States, Canada, or Mexico and represents a serious threat to the incredible diversity of our native salamanders. Thus, in the unlikely case that Bsal is detected at a facility, the Pet Advocacy Network will be notified and additional resources will be made available.
Click the button below to view an example of how results are reported to participants.
Already a participant?
Information on Pathogens
Ranaviruses are viral pathogens of cold-blooded vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, and bony fishes). They are commonly found in the wild in North America and around the world, often associated with mass-mortality events. They are also known to occur in captive populations and in animals sold in the live animal trade. Their impacts on animals vary from highly lethal within days to weeks to mild or even inapparent depending on the host and virus species, host condition, and environmental conditions. Symptoms of ranavirus infections include edema or swelling, especially around the legs, red blotches on the belly, hands, or near the cloaca; and lack of appetite. Occasionally, clear or whiteish papules might be seen on the skin. However, most viral damage is internal and some animals die with no obvious signs of infection. More information on ranaviruses is available in the free book - Ranavirues: Lethal Pathogens of Ectothermic Vertebrates.
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)
Bd is a species of “chytrid” fungal pathogens that affects the skin of amphibians. It is known to cause the declines and likely extinctions of myriad amphibian species around the world. It is also known to occur in captive populations and in animals sold in the live animal trade. It’s impact on animals vary from lethal over several weeks from exposure to inapparent, subclinical infections, to the infection being cleared depending on host species and Bd strain, host condition, and environmental conditions, especially temperature. Signs of Bd infection and disease include: excessive skin shedding, lethargy, paralysis, and lack of appetite. See Information Sheet #2 on the Southeast PARC website for additional information on Bd.
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal)
Similar to Bd, Bsal is a fungal pathogen that attacks the skin of amphibians. It is native to Southeast Asia (found in native species in Vietnam and China) and was apparently introduced via trade into Europe. It is known in captive collections in Europe and the UK and has caused the declines of European salamanders. It is not yet known to occur in North America, but if it were introduced it has the potential to cause massive impacts, including likely extinctions of our unique and extensive biodiversity of salamanders. Bsal‘s impact on animals vary from lethal within several weeks to subclinical infections to recovery, depending on host species, host health, and environmental conditions, especially temperature. Bsal signs are similar to Bd: abnormal skin shedding, lethargy, paralysis, and lack of appetite. Some species may also develop circular, necrotic lesions through the epidermis that appear like “cigarette burns” or holes through the skin. Some lesions may bleed and heavily infected toes can fall off. See Publication #23 on the Southeast PARC website for additional information on Bsal. Also, Bsal Task Forces in Europe and North America have been established to help prevent the spread of Bsal.
If pathogens are detected in your facility, we recommend taking the following steps
1. Isolate and disinfect: Isolate and quarantine the affected animals (i.e., those in tanks where the detection occurred) and any others that have likely been exposed to them directly (e.g., in contact) or indirectly (e.g., shared equipment, recirculating water). When in doubt, isolate the animals or habitats. While separate rooms are ideal, providing as much physical space or barriers between quarantined animals and the rest of your collection can still be effective. The quarantine should continue until you can be sure the animals are uninfected (see further testing, below). During and after the quarantine we recommend special attention to disinfecting water, substrates, housing tanks, and all equipment that comes into contact with animals or their habitats. (See disinfectant options, below.) Disposable gloves and hand-washing can minimize the spread of pathogens, but are especially effective when equipment is not shared between habitats (e.g., tanks).
Disinfecting Procedures: Several common disinfectants can inactivate Bd, Bsal and ranavirus. The minimum concentrations are shown in the table, below. It is recommended that the disinfectant is in contact with the contaminated surface or water for at least 10 minutes. More information can be found in Appendix 1 (pp. 350-351) of this paper by Gray et al. (2017).
2. Confirmatory and further testing: False positives do occur occasionally with qPCR (akin to laboratory COVID-19 testing) and other forms of testing. We thus recommend confirming positive results with a second, independent lab before proceeding to treatment options. Testing habitats not included in this pilot study is also warranted to ensure you know the scope of infection. Follow-up testing can also provide confidence that the treatments you implemented were effective.
Fee-for-service diagnostic laboratories
• Amphibian Disease Laboratory at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (Full disclosure: project director Dr. Matthew Gray is associated with this laboratory.)
3. Treatment options: We recommend consulting with a veterinarian prior to treatment and followup testing of animals after treatment to ensure the infections have been cleared. Below are some pathogen-specific options
Ranavirus (Rv): Unfortunately, there are currently no good treatment options for treating ranaviral infection in amphibians. We recommend you humanely euthanize the infected and exposed animals, and disinfect your tanks following the procedures below. If you choose to keep Ranavirus-infected animals in your facility, know that sublethal, inapparent infections can last for months or perhaps years in some animals and even be transmitted to naïve animals, so maintaining strict isolation is essential to preventing further spread.
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd): One of the most effective treatments for eliminating chytrid fungus infections is heat. Warming your amphibian to a constant 30 C (86 F) for 10 days will clear Bd infections. If your amphibian species cannot tolerate high temperatures, soaking them in a water bath of 0.0025% Itraconazole for 5 minutes per day for 5 days will generally clear infections. Another option is Terbinafine hydrochloride, which is the active ingredient in Lamisil. Soaking an amphibian in a water bath with 0.02% Terbinafine for 30 minutes per day and 5 days will generally clear Bd infections.
Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal): Heat and antifungal treatment options exist for Bsal. However, if Bsal is detected, Pet Advocacy Network will be notified to reach out with additional resources following the protocol below.
Bsal Detection Response
Click the link below to access a PDF of the full Bsal response plan
The primary objective of the Bsal response plan is to ensure that participants have as much access to control and treatment advice as they are comfortable receiving. Secondarily, we want to do as much as we can to prevent further spread of Bsal by tracing the origin or destination of potentially infected animals. The flow diagram below illustrates our approach to this process. Participation is completely voluntary, but our hope is that we can work together to help as many animals and facilities as possible should Bsal be detected.