Fungal pathogens have not traditionally been considered highly lethal. However, many newly discovered fungal diseases are threatening wild and domestic animals, agriculturally important crops, and human health. Two particularly striking examples of deadly fungal pathogens are Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (“Bd”), which causes disease in amphibians and Geomyces destructans (“Gd”), which infects and kills bats. These two different pathogens have surprisingly similar disease characteristics; they emerged relatively recently, spread rapidly though frog and bat populations and caused devastating declines and even extinction events. It is unclear, however, exactly how these pathogens operate and cause devastating die-offs. Our working group will bring together amphibian and bat researchers, epidemiologists and theoretical modelers to investigate the mechanisms of fungal pathogens in wildlife populations. We will consider how fungal pathogens might differ from other well-studied infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses. We will also address the wildlife conservation problems associated with newly emerging fungal pathogens, and make recommendations for research and mitigation efforts in rapidly declining wildlife populations. Understanding fungal pathogen biology could provide important information for studying fungal epidemics in diverse host organisms, including plants, other wildlife populations and in humans as well.
More information about this project and Working Group participants.