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Book Chapter

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Understanding and detecting diseases of amphibians has become vitally important in conservation and ecological studies in the twenty-fi rst century. Disease is defi ned as the deviance from normal conditions in an organism. The etiologies (causes) of disease include infectious, toxic, traumatic, metabolic, and neoplastic agents. Thus, monitoring disease in nature can be complex. For amphibians, infectious, parasitic, and toxic etiologies have gained the most notoriety. Amphibian diseases have been linked to declining amphibian populations, are a constant threat to endangered species, and are frequently a hazard in captive breeding programs, translocations, and repatriations. For example, a group of viruses belonging to the genus Ranavirus and the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis are amphibian pathogens that are globally distributed and responsible for catastrophic population die-offs, with B. dendrobatidis causing known species extinctions (Daszak et al. 1999; Lips et al. 2006; Skerratt et al. 2007). Some infectious diseases of amphibians share similar pathological changes; thus, their detection, recognition, and correct diagnosis can be a challenge even by trained veterinary pathologists or experienced herpetologists.

This chapter will introduce readers to the most common amphibian diseases with an emphasis on those that are potentially or frequently lethal, and the techniques involved in disease monitoring. It will also outline methods of biosecurity to reduce the transmission of disease agents by humans. We start by covering infectious, parasitic, and toxic diseases. Next, surveillance methods are discussed, including methods for sample collection and techniques used in disease diagnosis. Finally, biosecurity issues for preventing disease transmission will be covered, and we provide protocols for disinfecting fi eld equipment and footwear.

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