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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Leap to a Cure

Air Date: Week of

There’s a fungus threatening the world’s amphibian populations. But, as Paige Doughty reports, one scientist may have found a homegrown cure for the fungal disease.



DOUGHTY: Deep in the heart of the forested mountains of Virginia a red-backed salamander lives beneath a decaying log. The lungless creature breathes through its skin and eats a range of insects. It seems a simple existence, but all that may change soon.


DOUGHTY: For more than 15 years amphibian experts have been combating a deadly fungal disease, Chytridiomycosis, which has been threatening the world’s amphibian populations. But scientist Reid Harris of James Madison University believes the skin of the red backed salamander may house a cure. He’s identified a bacteria called pedobacter cryoconitis, which lives on the amphibian’s skin. The bacteria may be able to fend off the infectious fungal disease on salamanders and other amphibians.

It turns out the fungal disease moves in a predictable pattern. For this reason, Harris says, the bacteria could potentially be used like a “fire line” against the spread of the disease.

Before that can happen though more research into interspecies treatments needs to occur. The next step is to take the work to a lab in the Sierra Nevada Mountains where the yellow-legged frog is in critical condition.

If all goes well it sounds like the little red-backed salamander might make quite a leap for its amphibian friends. That’s this week’s note on emerging science, I’m Paige Doughty.

GELLERMAN: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.



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