Soil reservoir dynamics of Ophidiomyces ophidiicola, the causative agent of snake fungal disease

Journal of Fungi
By: , and 



Wildlife diseases pose an ever-growing threat to global biodiversity. Understanding how wildlife pathogens are distributed in the environment and the ability of pathogens to form environmental reservoirs is critical to understanding and predicting disease dynamics within host populations. Snake fungal disease (SFD) is an emerging conservation threat to North American snake populations. The causative agent, Ophidiomyces ophidiicola (Oo), is detectable in environmentally derived soils. However, little is known about the distribution of Oo in the environment and the persistence and growth of Oo in soils. Here, we use quantitative PCR to detect Oo in soil samples collected from five snake dens. We compare the detection rates between soils collected from within underground snake hibernacula and associated, adjacent topsoil samples. Additionally, we used microcosm growth assays to assess the growth of Oo in soils and investigate whether the detection and growth of Oo are related to abiotic parameters and microbial communities of soil samples. We found that Oo is significantly more likely to be detected in hibernaculum soils compared to topsoils. We also found that Oo was capable of growth in sterile soil, but no growth occurred in soils with an active microbial community. A number of fungal genera were more abundant in soils that did not permit growth of Oo, versus those that did. Our results suggest that soils may display a high degree of both general and specific suppression of Oo in the environment. Harnessing environmental suppression presents opportunities to mitigate the impacts of SFD in wild snake populations.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Soil reservoir dynamics of ophidiomyces ophidiicola, the causative agent of snake fungal disease
Series title Journal of Fungi
DOI 10.3390/jof7060461
Volume 7
Issue 6
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher MDPI
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 461, 14 p.
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