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Open Access Treatment of Chytridiomycosis in Laboratory Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) and Rough-skinned Newts (Taricha granulosa)

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Chytridiomycosis is an infectious disease of amphibians caused by the fungal species Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans and has been implicated in the population decline of amphibian species worldwide. This case report describes a successful treatment protocol for chytridiomycosis in laboratory-maintained colonies of axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) and rough-skinned newts (Taricha granulosa). Over 12 mo, axolotls (n = 12) in a laboratory-reared colony developed multifocal erythematous dermatitis, mainly on the distal limbs and tails. Wild-caught newts handled by the same lab personnel were housed in an adjacent room and occasionally presented with abdominal distension and lethargy. Differentials included poor water quality, pathogen infection, parasitic infestation, and trauma. Antibiotic treatment of animals according to results of bacterial culture and sensitivity, combined with bleach disinfection of aquaria, did not resolve clinical signs. Skin swabs from clinically affected axolotls submitted for a newly available commercial screen were positive for B. dendrobatidis. Additional PCR and sequencing analysis revealed chytrid-positive animals among group-housed newts in 2 clinically unaffected aquaria and suspected PCR-positives for 2 affected newt aquaria and an additional axolotl. Axolotls with skin lesions (n = 2) and newts with abdominal distension and lethargy (n = 2) underwent experimental treatment with itraconazole submersion (0.002% to 0.0025%; 5 min daily for 10 d). This pilot treatment was well tolerated and led to clinical resolution. Subsequent itraconazole treatment of the entire colony led to regrowth of extremities and restoration of normal coloration among axolotls. During treatment, the facility was decontaminated, and additional biosecurity measures were developed. PCR results after the pilot treatment and subsequent full-colony treatments (at 1 wk, 1 mo, and 6 mo after treatment) were negative for the presence of B. dendrobatidis. Because chytridiomycosis is a reportable animal disease in our state, colonies officially remained quarantined until negative PCR results were obtained at least 6 mo after treatment.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Campus Animal Resources 2: Department of Integrative Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: June 1, 2019

This article was made available online on May 29, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Treatment of Chytridiomycosis in Laboratory Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) and Rough-skinned Newts (Taricha granulosa)".

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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