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Data from Experimental Methodologies can Affect Pathogenicity of Batrachochytrium Salamandrivorans Infections

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Controlled experiments are one approach to understanding the pathogenicity of etiologic agents to susceptible hosts. The recently discovered fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), has resulted in a surge of experimental investigations because of its potential to impact global salamander biodiversity. However, variation in experimental methodologies could thwart knowledge advancement by introducing confounding factors that make comparisons difficult among studies. Thus, our objective was to evaluate if variation in experimental methods changed inferences made on the pathogenicity of Bsal. We tested whether passage duration of Bsal culture, exposure method of the host to Bsal (water bath vs. skin inoculation), Bsal culturing method (liquid vs. plated), host husbandry conditions (aquatic vs. terrestrial), and skin swabbing frequency influenced diseased-induced mortality in a susceptible host species, the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). We found that disease-induced mortality was faster for eastern newts when exposed to a low passage isolate, when newts were housed in terrestrial environments, and if exposure to zoospores occurred via water bath. We did not detect differences in disease-induced mortality between culturing methods or swabbing frequencies. Our results illustrate the need to standardize methods among Bsal experiments. We provide suggestions for future Bsal experiments in the context of hypothesis testing and discuss the ecological implications of our results.

This work was partially supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Environmental Biology (EEID Grant #1814520) and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Hatch Project 1012932) awarded to Matthew J. Gray and Debra L. Miller.

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