8 May 2009

Disease risk exposed in global amphibian trade

Published research in the US has shown for the first time that the global trade in amphibians is spreading two amphibian diseases – one of which is thought to be behind a number of recent amphibian extinctions.

The article, published in the journal Biological Conservation and reported today in New Scientist, refers to examinations undertaken on frogs that were imported through three major US ports: Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

Tests undertaken on North American bullfrogs Rana catesbeiana and frog parts showed that over eight percent of frogs had ranaviral disease, with two-thirds carrying chytrid fungus. The fungus is thought to be a key factor in many recent amphibian declines and extinctions.
The study underlines how important it is that exporting nations certify that their animals are disease-free, and importing nations check this on arrival.

Last year the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) took a step towards monitoring both by making them "notifiable", but as yet there are no firm regulations to prevent the trade of infected frogs.

The study found that over 7 million kilograms of amphibians (and amphibian parts) were imported into the US between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2005.

To find out more about Froglife’s work on ranavirus in the UK, alongside our partners the Institute of Zoology (London), visit: www.froglife.org/disease