Frog populations are in rapid decline in North America, Europe, Australia and South America. Since the 1980s, scientists have been concerned about the impact of deforestation and pollution on the frog populace. However, researchers were puzzled to see frogs dropping off from eco-friendly habitats in Panama. In Central America and the Caribbean, nearly two-thirds of the indigenous frog species have dropped off the map. Species like the golden frog have not been seen in the wild for five years. The culprit? Athlete’s foot!
How Does Athlete’s Foot Kill Frogs?
Field biologists have discovered a fungal infection called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (BD) that attacks frogs by clogging their pores and causing fatal cardiac arrest. This fungus is the same type of harmful pathogen that causes athlete’s foot in humans, which has prompted some people to refer to BD as “athlete’s foot from hell.”
When the plague first hit, the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center mobilized quickly. “We knew the fungus would be here, we saw it coming, and we knew we had to do something,” the center’s founder Edgardo Griffith told the Washington Post. In 2006 and 2007, his team collected hundreds of frogs from a dozen species and rinsed the frogs in antifungal baths in two rented rooms at the Hotel Campestre. “It was a nightmare,” Griffith recalls. “I saw frogs dying as we were collecting them. They would die in your hand. The only option we had was to buy some time, keep them alive.”
The newspaper reports that the international trade in African clawed frogs may have something to do with the rapid expansion of the fungus. These frogs were used for pregnancy tests in some countries, since the female frogs produce eggs if urinated upon by a pregnant woman. The African clawed frogs and American bullfrogs have some sort of immunity to the fungus, but are known carriers, which enables the fungus to spread.
What Can Be Done About The Frogs Injured By Athlete’s Foot Fungus?
The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project at the Smithsonian has created an “amphibian ark” to breed and protect the creatures from extinction, although it’s uncertain what will become of the frog-farming project. “The last thing we want to do is release these precious, expensive frogs back into wild, just to see them consumed by the fungus all over again,” project coordinator Brian Gratwicke told the Washington Post. “The remedy eludes us,” he added. Currently, his team of scientists are studying the fungus-resistant frogs to see if there is some way of breeding immunity.
What YOU Can Do About Athlete’s Foot
You can rest easy knowing that people walking around barefoot with athlete’s foot is not causing this epidemic. Stopping the threat to frogs has less to do with your foot fungus and more to do with stopping the global trade of frogs, testing transported frogs for the fungus, and donating to research.
While the fungus is not lethal to humans, it can be downright unpleasant if you are suffering. It is also important to note that foot fungus symptoms do not clear up on their own, without treatment. So, if you have it, seek help for athlete’s foot today.