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Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) not detected in an intensive survey of wild North American amphibians

August 11, 2020

The salamander chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans [Bsal]) is causing massive mortality of salamanders in Europe. The potential for spread via international trade into North America and the high diversity of salamanders has catalyzed concern about Bsal in the U.S. Surveillance programs for invading pathogens must initially meet challenges that include low rates of occurrence on the landscape, low prevalence at a site, and imperfect detection of the diagnostic tests. We implemented a large-scale survey to determine if Bsal was present in North America designed to target taxa and localities where Bsal was determined highest risk to be present based on species susceptibility and geography. Our analysis included a Bayesian model to estimate the probability of occurrence of Bsal given our prior knowledge of the occurrence and prevalence of the pathogen. We failed to detect Bsal in any of 11,189 samples from 594 sites in 223 counties within 35 U.S. states and one site in Mexico. Our modeling indicates that Bsal is highly unlikely to occur within wild amphibians in the U.S. and suggests that the best proactive response is to continue mitigation efforts against the introduction and establishment of the disease and to develop plans to reduce impacts should Bsal establish.

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