‘Characterization of the microbiome of amphibians’ skin: Ecological determinants and potential as a probiotic in emerging diseases (skinpro)’

Grants for research teams

Ecology and Conservation Biology

2016

In this project, we will attempt to characterize the microbiome of amphibians’ skin across a broad range of environmental conditions, and to identify bacteria with potential as an antifungal probiotic that may help control or reduce the spread of ‘Bd’ in natural aquatic systems.

DIRECTOR

Alfredo González Nicieza, tenured professor at the University of Oviedo

 

RESEARCH TEAM

Germán Orizaola Pereda, Uppsala University; Delfí Sanuy Castells, University of Lleida; Jorge Bresciano Kauffman, University of Granada; Urtzi Eder Enriquez Urzelai y Lucía Alarcón Ríos, University of Oviedo; Guillermo Velo Antón, CIBIO/InBIO University of Porto; and Neus Oromí Farrús, University of Liège.

COLLABORATING INSTITUTIONS

University of Oviedo

 

DESCRIPTION

Emerging infectious diseases are among the main drivers of biodiversity loss. Pathogenic fungi have caused massive mortalities and population extinctions the world over, and are acknowledged as a risk factor for natural ecosystems and perhaps even human health.

Hence the urgent need to identify the ecological determinants associated with the disease dynamics. In particular, the chytrid fungus ‘Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd)’ is one of the causes of the decline and loss of amphibian populations and species worldwide, driving at least 200 species to extinction.

However, not all species and populations are equally vulnerable. Differences in susceptibility may owe to diverse factors, but certainly open up interesting avenues of inquiry into the vulnerability of the pathogens.

An in-depth knowledge of these factors could help prevent or mitigate the effects of ‘Bd’ infection. One of the most promising research directions concerns the role of amphibian skin bacteria as a defensive barrier against ‘Bd’ infection. The existence of specific symbiont bacteria on amphibian skin has been postulated as an explanation for the geographical variation in population or species response to ‘Bd’ infection, and a growing body of evidence suggests that a selection of species with probiotic potential could be effective in inhibiting ‘Bd’ growth.