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Updated: Jan 10

On 22 02 2022 Zhimin Li defended her PhD ‘Host susceptibility of amphibians to chytridiomycosis: lessons for mitigation’ with flying colors.

By combining field samplings and lab trials, her work showed us that Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), the salamander-eating fungus, poses a variable risk on European herpetofauna at both the population and species level. Although being highly susceptible to Bsal and with a high probability of population extinction after Bsal incursion, species extinction of Lyciasalamandra helverseni is less likely to occur due to species specific and environmental barriers that limit pathogen dispersal between populations.

The olm (Proteus anguinus) was demonstrated to be one of the few western Palearctic urodeles that is tolerant to Bsal infection, however the costs of subclinical infection are not yet understood.

Furthermore, the research focused on co-infections between B. dendrobatidis (Bd) and Bsal. Prior infection with low-virulence Bd isolates can protect some species against the subsequent invasion by hypervirulent Bd or Bsal. Endemic infections with Bd may thus protect at least a proportion of the European urodeles against the disease. While this opens novel perspectives for disease mitigation, imposing fast and drastic measures currently seems the only realistic option to contain and potentially eradicate the disease in Europe.

Incredible work by Dr. Zhimin Li! We wish her all the best in future endeavors!

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