Fungal pandemics have hit frogs and bats. Snakes are now succumbing too. Fungal disease poses global threat to snakes 

Fungal afflictions have had devastating impacts on a number of different species in recent years. Chytrid fungus has reduced frog populations all around the world, while white nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in the US.

Now researchers have evidence of what's termed snake fungal disease (SFD) in a number of populations in Europe and the US.

The disease forms lesions on the snake's skin, and can spread quickly and cover a large part of the body.

"They start getting these blisters and then all kinds of secondary infections from it, it can kill snakes quite rapidly actually, I've seen them go down in a matter of a few days," lead author Dr Frank Burbrink, ...

To work out the possible extent of the threat, the scientists built a model based on the evolutionary history, ecology and physical traits of known infected species.

They looked for associations that could be used to predict which species might be susceptible - the results showed that all 98 groups of snakes in the eastern US could be at risk and the epidemic might extend globally. [emphasis mine]

I had no idea fungi were such an existential threat to wildlife and that it's escalating.

A Rise in Fungal Diseases is Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife

Matthew Fisher, an epidemiologist at Imperial College in London. Fisher and his colleagues calculate that fungi have caused more than 80 percent of known disease-driven animal extinctions. (Viruses, by comparison, are responsible for only 1 percent.) The vast majority of these fungi-driven extinctions have happened in the past 20 years.

Climate change may also be contributing to the spread of fungal diseases in wildlife populations.

Arturo Casadevall, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, gained notoriety a few years ago for suggesting that warm-bloodedness — an energy-expensive life strategy — protected early mammals from heat-intolerant fungi and led to their global rise. But as average global temperatures ratchet up, Casadevall hypothesizes, fungi may adapt to warmer temperatures and mammals may lose their body-temperature advantage.

 “Fungal diseases really haven’t been on our radar screen,” says Casadevall, “but as you raise the temperature, I think they’re going to become completely formidable.” [emphasis mine]

Does this mean we're at risk? Probably.

image source

Fungal Diseases Are on the Rise -- Is Environmental Change to Blame?

Invasive fungal infections -- the really bad kind that infect the heart, blood, brain, bones and other internal organs -- kill about 1.5 million people worldwide every year. ... at least as many people die from the top 10 invasive fungal diseases as from tuberculosis or malaria. Perfect and other experts say these deadly diseases are on the rise. Some fungal pathogens that infect humans are emerging in parts of the world where they've never been found.

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Replies to This Discussion

The thought of extinction of snakes leaves me with mixed feelings; I hate the venomous snakes and respect the role of snakes in their environmental niche. Insects and vermin are difficult enough to control and trying without the help of snakes would be an impossible task.

The thought of infectious fungi spreading throughout nature, as suggested, creates a possible deadly effect on Earth's food supply for both flora and fauna. The photo of the fungus on the foot of a human scares the daylight out of me. 

My former husband came home from serving a year in Viet Nam with toe and fingernail fungus that plagued him until his death. 

I developed toe fungus, tried any and all over the counter products I could find. My General Practitioner prescribed antifungal drugs, keeping a close eye on the side effects. I eventually had to stop the Rx because of liver problems. A board-certified podiatrist ended the oral antifungal drugs with the information that as soon as I finish the pills the fungus will return and I had to consider the side effects. He said the same happens with all over the counter medication and prescribed drugs for nail fungus. He stated the only thing that works is to wash my feet daily, dry them carefully, and apply Vicks Vapor Rub on my nails and between my toes for four months. Change my socks every day and my shoes every other day. It worked. 

If nail fungus is that difficult to treat, how many fungi are there? According to American Journal of BotanyMarch 2011 vol. 98 no. 3 426-438

"• Premise of the study: Fungi are major decomposers in certain ecosystems and essential associates of many organisms. They provide enzymes and drugs and serve as experimental organisms. In 1991, a landmark paper estimated that there are 1.5 million fungi on the Earth. Because only 70,000 fungi had been described at that time, the estimate has been the impetus to search for previously unknown fungi. Fungal habitats include soil, water, and organisms that may harbor large numbers of understudied fungi, estimated to outnumber plants by at least 6 to 1. More recent estimates based on high-throughput sequencing methods suggest that as many as 5.1 million fungal species exist."

That is "species," not individuals.

Now, news of a fungus killing snakes, that is, reptiles. Does the fungus pass to others reptilian life? Or, to the plant kingdom? Or animal kingdom: 

Today to the doctor for the 3rd time, for a fungal skin infection.....

How bad is it Plinius?

I've had fungus under my big toenails for 25 years or more, but so far it's caused no pain or anything bad that I can tell.  That's probably because I have dry skin and wear shoes that have good ventilation, plus no shoes around the house. 

The article did worry me a little, so next time I see my doctor, I'll ask him if I should be concerned.  Several years ago, he noticed them and said I could get rid of it with petrolatum, but didn't seem concerned.

I have to visit a dermatologist, because my GP cannot choose between allergy, eczema or fungal infection. I feel like I'm sunburnt, feverish and cold at the same time, and tired. The itching is bad, but we'll see...

Hope your dermatologist can help.

Thanks!

Yes, Chris, the fungus caused dreadful itching for me and I kept trying everything on the shelves with "fungus" on its label, and my General Practitioner tried everything, finally referring me to a dermatologist. I am very interested in what your Dermatologist tells you. 

For three years I’ve had a painless fungus under several toenails that caused the nails to thicken and I now trim those nails with wire cutting pliers. The usual nail snippers do okay on my other toenails.

But I’m 87 and Ma and Pa Nature have for decades been toying with me.

Hm-mm, that suggests another memoir.

Tom, have you read my piece on nail fungus and Vicks Vapo Rub? Used as directed, I got rid of a fungus that plagued me many years. 

Thanks, Joan. I’ll check on it.

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