[ASC-media] CSIRO: Scientists join fight against frog diseases

Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au Rebecca.Eveleigh at csiro.au
Tue Jul 3 06:17:07 CEST 2007

3 July 2007
Ref: 07/121

Scientists join fight against frog diseases 

CSIRO is collaborating with other Australian research institutions, and
conservation groups, to identify new and emerging diseases affecting
frog populations in Far North Queensland.
CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
in Geelong, the Frog Decline Reversal Project, Inc's (FDR project)
Cairns Frog Hospital, Sydney's Taronga Zoo and James Cook University
(JCU), will combine their research expertise and technologies to
diagnose new frog diseases detected recently by the FDR project.
Funded by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and
Water Resources, the three-year Amphibian Disease Project was initiated
by FDR Project founder, Deborah Pergolotti. 

"Since we began rescue and rehabilitation activities in 1998, we have
discovered several new and undescribed disease issues in Far North
Queensland amphibians including high levels of cancer, and die-offs and
malformations in frogs and cane toads," Ms Pergolotti said. 

According to AAHL's principal frog researcher, Dr Alex Hyatt, these
diseases, or syndromes, have never been seen before and may present a
threat to the long-term survival of native frogs.

"Frogs with specific syndromes will be screened by veterinary
pathologists from AAHL, the JCU's Anton Breinl Centre and Taronga Zoo's
Australian Registry of Wildlife Health (ARWH) to identify what pathogens
are present, if they are infectious, and which are responsible for death
and deformity," Dr Hyatt said.

JCU's Professor Rick Speare said the Project's integration of specialist
skills and equipment will avoid unnecessary duplication and should
provide a cost-effective procedure for identifying new frog diseases.

To initiate a record of diagnostic pathological results for these
diseases, a Diagnostic Imaging Network System (DINS) - developed at AAHL
in collaboration with Arcitecta Pty Ltd - will transfer images to a
central database accessible to veterinary pathologists across Australia.

According to ARWH curator, Dr Karrie Rose, there are currently no
efficient interactive databases like DINS in operation.   

"Collectively the project will pioneer a new national way of handling
diseases from the wild which, if proven successful, could be used as a
model to initiate a broader diagnostic network in Australia for other
wildlife," Dr Rose said.  

Dr Hyatt said the new amphibian syndromes emerging in Far North
Queensland are not the first diseases to have threatened Australia's
frog populations. "In the late 1990s, Australian scientists discovered a
debilitating frog fungus called Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium
dendrobatidis), which has been responsible for species extinctions and
local population losses around the globe. Our experience with the
Chytrid fungus taught us that if you find a disease or virus early
enough you have a much better chance of controlling it," he said.

A picture of a litoria xanthomera frog (one of the species of native
tree frogs found in Far North Queensland which could be threatened by a
number of frog diseases emerging in the regionthe) is available from:

 Further Information: 

Dr Alex Hyatt, CSIRO Livestock Industries 
+61  3 5227 5209; 0400 630 379 Alex.Hyatt at csiro.au 
Professor Rick Speare, James Cook University
+61 7 4781 5959; richard.speare at jcu.edu.au
Deborah Pergolotti, Cairns Frog Hospital/FDR project
Dr. Karrie Rose, Taronga Zoo
+61 7 4053-4367; curator at fdrproject.org.au
+61 2 9978-4749; krose at zoo.nsw.gov.au
Media Assistance: Emma Wilkins, CSIRO Livestock Industries
+61 3 5227 5123; 0409 031 658; Emma.Wilkins at csiro.au
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Beck Eveleigh
Media Assistant
CSIRO Media Liaison
6276 6451
0409 395 010

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