Playing with Nature
Synthetic Biology and the Amphibian Extinction Crisis
The uncontrolled spread of infectious diseases may have catastrophic worldwide consequences. Amphibian populations, including frogs, face unprecedented biodiversity loss and potential extinction due to the chytrid fungus. Chytridiomycosis is caused by two fungal species, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans, which originated in Asia and are spread by wildlife trade. Over 501 amphibian species have declined in number, 90 species are presumed extinct, and additional losses are predicted as anthropogenic trade eliminates geographic barriers and threatens biodiversity (Scheele et al., 2019). While we now understand much about the epidemiology and natural course of this disease, a treatment remains elusive. Infection control guidelines and a reduction in wildlife trade are urgently needed; in addition, emerging biosynthetic engineering tools may help mitigate the decline in frog and amphibian populations.
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