Helping the Frogs Help Themselves Out of Extinction

Frogs and other amphibians are under attack from a fungus. First observed some two decades ago, the fungus has swept the world and has been implicated in the extinctions of hundreds of species. Yet it’s really only been in the past few years that scientists have started to get a handle on how it makes frogs sick and kills them. In my “Matter” column this week in the New York Times, I take a look at an experiment that offers a glimmer of hope. If frogs don’t get killed by the fungus, they develop some defenses against later infections.

It’s conceivable that someday scientists might, in effect, vaccinate amphibians against the fungus, allowing enough of them to withstand the pathogen to keep their species going. It may feel odd for us to become wildlife’s veterinarian, but in some cases that may be the only the way we can stop species from vanishing. Bats, for example, are getting hammered by another species of fungus. Perhaps someday biologists will spray dead fungal spores into caves to give bats a fighting chance. Perhaps. To see where we stand right now, check out the column.

One thought on “Helping the Frogs Help Themselves Out of Extinction

  1. There’s a precedent for us as wildlife veterinarians. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has a program that airdrops oral vaccines for rabies. I believe here in Maine the primary target are raccoons, but in other states it may be coyotes or foxes.

    Of course the intended beneficiary is ultimately humans and not animals.

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