Salamander with early stages of chytridiomycosis

Understanding Salamander chytridiomycosis

Salamander chytridiomycosis, also known as chytrid fungus, is a disease that has been causing a decline in salamander populations around the world. The disease is caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which attacks the skin of salamanders and can lead to death. In this article, we will explore the cause, significance, species affected, distribution, transmission, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, and management of salamander chytridiomycosis.


Salamander chytridiomycosis is caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which belongs to the same genus as the fungus responsible for the decline of frog populations worldwide. Bsal attacks the skin of salamanders, which is critical for their respiration, electrolyte balance, and immunity. The fungus grows in the skin, causing a thickening of the outer layer and interfering with the salamander’s ability to absorb water and nutrients.


Salamander chytridiomycosis is a significant threat to salamander populations worldwide. Salamanders play important roles in ecosystems, such as serving as predators and prey, controlling insect populations, and contributing to nutrient cycling. The loss of salamanders can have cascading effects on other species and the environment. In addition, many species of salamanders are unique and not found anywhere else in the world, making their loss a significant loss of biodiversity.


Affected Salamander chytridiomycosis affects a wide range of salamander species. It is most commonly found in newts and salamanders in the family Plethodontidae, but other families have also been affected. The disease has been found in Europe, Asia, and North America, and there are concerns that it could spread to other regions.


Salamander chytridiomycosis was first discovered in Europe in 2010 and has since been found in various locations in Asia and North America. It is believed that the disease was introduced to Europe through the trade of Asian newts as pets. Once introduced to a new location, the disease can spread through the movement of infected salamanders, contaminated water, and other means.


Salamander chytridiomycosis is primarily spread through direct contact with infected salamanders, their skin shed in the environment, or contaminated water. The fungus can survive in moist environments and can persist in water for extended periods. Humans can also contribute to the spread of the disease through the release of pet salamanders or the use of contaminated equipment.

Clinical Signs

The clinical signs of salamander chytridiomycosis can vary depending on the species of salamander and the severity of the infection. In general, salamanders infected with B. salamandrivorans show more severe symptoms than those infected with B. dendrobatidis. Some of the most common clinical signs include:

  • Skin discoloration and thickening: Infected salamanders may develop a thickened, discolored, or patchy appearance to their skin, which is often accompanied by the loss of the protective slime layer.
  • Difficulty moving or swimming: Salamanders may become lethargic and have difficulty moving or swimming, and may even become paralyzed in severe cases.
  • Loss of appetite: Infected salamanders may stop eating and lose weight, which can lead to weakness and other health problems.
  • Abnormal behavior: Some salamanders infected with chytrid fungus may exhibit abnormal behavior, such as spending more time out of the water than usual.
  • Death: In severe cases, salamanders can die from the infection, either directly from the effects of the fungus or from secondary infections caused by the weakened immune system.

It is important to note that not all infected salamanders will show clinical signs of disease. Some salamanders may be carriers of the fungus without showing any outward signs of infection, which can make it difficult to control the spread of the disease.


Diagnosis of salamander chytridiomycosis involves the detection of the fungus through skin swabs or tissue samples. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is commonly used to detect the presence of the fungus. Diagnosis may also involve the examination of clinical signs and the history of the affected salamanders.


Currently, there is no known cure for salamander chytridiomycosis, making management and prevention the primary means of control. Treatment options are limited, and the use of antifungal agents has not yet proven to be effective. However, some research has suggested that treating infected individuals with bacteria that produce antifungal compounds may offer some potential for control.

In addition to treatment, the implementation of strict biosecurity protocols and quarantine measures may also help prevent the spread of the disease. This includes isolating and quarantining infected individuals and disinfecting equipment and materials between uses.

There is also ongoing research into developing a vaccine for the disease, with promising results in laboratory trials. However, further testing and development are necessary before a vaccine can be implemented on a larger scale.

Overall, the most effective means of managing salamander chytridiomycosis is through prevention and control measures, including strict biosecurity protocols, quarantine measures, and ongoing research into potential treatment options.


The management of salamander chytridiomycosis mainly focuses on preventing the spread of the disease. In captive populations, infected individuals are isolated and treated with antifungal medication. However, treatment in wild populations is not feasible, and conservation efforts should focus on preventing the introduction of the disease into new areas.

Biosecurity measures, such as limiting the movement of salamanders between locations and sanitizing equipment and clothing, can help prevent the spread of the disease. In addition, public education can play a significant role in preventing the spread of chytridiomycosis. Awareness campaigns can help promote responsible pet ownership and discourage the release of captive animals into the wild, which could introduce the disease to new populations.


Salamander chytridiomycosis is a serious threat to amphibian biodiversity, with devastating effects on many species of salamanders. The disease is caused by a chytrid fungus and is transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or contaminated water sources. The disease can cause a wide range of clinical signs, including lethargy, loss of appetite, and skin lesions. There is no known cure for the disease, but biosecurity measures and public education campaigns can help prevent its spread.

Given the devastating effects of chytridiomycosis on amphibians, conservation efforts should focus on preventing the spread of the disease. This can be achieved through a combination of biosecurity measures and public education. By working together, researchers, policymakers, wildlife educators, and the public can help protect the world’s salamanders from this deadly disease.


  • Skerratt, L. F., Berger, L., Speare, R., Cashins, S., McDonald, K. R., Phillott, A. D., … & Hines, H. B. (2018). Spread of chytridiomycosis has caused the rapid global decline and extinction of frogs. EcoHealth, 15(1), 226-235.
  • Olson, D. H., Aanensen, D. M., Ronnenberg, K. L., Powell, C. I., Walker, S. F., Bielby, J., … & Garner, T. W. (2013). Mapping the global emergence of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, the amphibian chytrid fungus. PLoS One, 8(2), e56802.
  • Skerratt, L. F., McDonald, K. R., Hines, H. B., Berger, L., Mendez, D., Phillott, A. D., … & Speare, R. (2010). Application of the survey protocol for chytridiomycosis to Queensland, Australia. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 92(2-3), 117-129.

Further Reading

  • Woodhams, D. C., & Alford, R. A. (2015). Ecology of chytridiomycosis in rainforest stream frog assemblages of tropical Queensland. Conservation Biology, 29(2), 388-397.
  • Schloegel, L. M., Toledo, L. F., Longcore, J. E., Greenspan, S. E., Vieira, C. A., Lee, M., … & James, T. Y. (2012). Novel, panzootic, and hybrid genotypes of amphibian chytridiomycosis associated with the bullfrog trade. Molecular Ecology, 21(21), 5162-5177.
  • Grogan, L. F., Cashins, S. D., Skerratt, L. F., Berger, L., McFadden, M., Harlow, P. S., … & Hunter, D. (2018). The Biodiversity and Health of Reptiles and Amphibians of Queensland’s Rainforests: Changes in the Distribution and Prevalence of Infection of the Amphibian Chytrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) Over 20 Years. EcoHealth, 15(1), 194-208.