Development of a rapid diagnostic test for amphibian chytridiomycosis

The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been implicated in amphibian species extinctions across the globe. The current detection protocol is based on amplification of DNA and therefore necessitates access to a molecular lab and potentially lengthy delays between swabbing a specimen (in captivity or the wild) and obtaining a positive result. Following on from experiences conducting chytrid surveys in Tanzania and quarantining captive amphibians at Paignton Zoo we realized the enormous potential of a rapid diagnostic test that could be used without access to specialist equipment. Colleagues at the University of Exeter have developed antigen-based lateral flow devices for rapid detection of fungal pathogens, similar to a commercial pregnancy test, and so are in the ideal position to do the same for this deadly amphibian disease. To help secure funding we solicited letters of support from Amphibian Ark, IUCN Species Survival Commission, EAZA, WAZA and Natural England. Early development of the technology is being carried out in Exeter with a research grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

Project team:

Michael Dillon, Jamie Stevens and Chris Thornton, University of Exeter
Mat Fisher, Imperial College London
Mike Bungard
Andrew Bowkett, WWCT


Dillon, M.J., Bowkett, A.E., Bungard, M.J., Beckman, K., O’Brien, M., Bates, K., Fisher, M.C., Stevens, J.R. and Thornton, C.R. (2017). Tracking the amphibian pathogens Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans by using a highly specific monoclonal antibody and lateral-flow technology. Microbial Biotechnology 10: 381-394

Dillon, M.J., Stevens, J.R., Bungard, M.J., Bowkett, A.E., Fisher, M.C. and Thornton, C.R. (2015). Development of a mAb library targeting Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis antigens for the field diagnosis of chytridiomycosis. Presentation at the symposium: Health and Disease in Translocated Wild Animals, Zoological Society of London, 14-15th May 2015.  

Supported by: The Leverhulme Trust