Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) are widely believed to be nonclinical carriers of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), the fungal pathogen that invades keratinized tissues of amphibians and causes the disease, chytridiomycosis. Although most research on this disease focuses on adults, larval anurans are also susceptible to infections in their keratinized mouthparts, and this allows for visual diagnosis of the disease via the degree of mouthpart depigmentation. When an unplanned outbreak of chytridiomycosis occurred in a set of captive bullfrog tadpoles in our lab, we conducted the current investigation into its effects on the nonspecific immune system (i.e., the leukocyte populations) of the tadpoles. We compared leukocyte counts from blood smears of 27 tadpoles that had contracted the disease (evidenced by severe mouthpart depigmentation and confirmed by histology) to those of 21 tadpoles that had little depigmentation (i.e., with little evidence of the disease). Tadpoles with severe depigmentation had significantly more neutrophils and less eosinophils than those with little depigmentation, while numbers of lymphocytes, basophils, and monocytes were not statistically different. That there was any effect at all on circulating leukocyte numbers is surprising since leukocytes are usually not seen migrating to sites of infection in tissue sections of amphibians infected with Bd, and since most research points to this disease having little outward effect on bullfrogs. Since monocyte numbers were unchanged, the leukocyte alterations were likely not due to a simple inflammation response. It is possible that Bd infections elicit increases in glucocorticoid hormones, which can cause increased numbers of circulating neutrophils and lower numbers of eosinophils, although this is often accompanied by a reduction in lymphocyte numbers, which we did not see. Further research is warranted to clarify if this effect is limited to this species.
- Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis
- Rana catesbeiana
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine