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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 15;108(46):18732-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1111915108. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Multiple emergences of genetically diverse amphibian-infecting chytrids include a globalized hypervirulent recombinant lineage.

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  • 1Department Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College, London W2 1PG, United Kingdom.


Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a globally ubiquitous fungal infection that has emerged to become a primary driver of amphibian biodiversity loss. Despite widespread effort to understand the emergence of this panzootic, the origins of the infection, its patterns of global spread, and principle mode of evolution remain largely unknown. Using comparative population genomics, we discovered three deeply diverged lineages of Bd associated with amphibians. Two of these lineages were found in multiple continents and are associated with known introductions by the amphibian trade. We found that isolates belonging to one clade, the global panzootic lineage (BdGPL) have emerged across at least five continents during the 20th century and are associated with the onset of epizootics in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Australia, and Europe. The two newly identified divergent lineages, Cape lineage (BdCAPE) and Swiss lineage (BdCH), were found to differ in morphological traits when compared against one another and BdGPL, and we show that BdGPL is hypervirulent. BdGPL uniquely bears the hallmarks of genomic recombination, manifested as extensive intergenomic phylogenetic conflict and patchily distributed heterozygosity. We postulate that contact between previously genetically isolated allopatric populations of Bd may have allowed recombination to occur, resulting in the generation, spread, and invasion of the hypervirulent BdGPL leading to contemporary disease-driven losses in amphibian biodiversity.

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