Quirks & Quarks

Fungal Disease May be Death Rattle for Snakes

Concerns are rising about a new infectious fungal disease appearing in North American snakes.

Emerging infection threatens snakes in North America

Timber Rattlesnake with fungal infection. (Kevin McCurley)
 The fungal diseases known to bats (white nose syndrome) and frogs (Chytridiomycosis) are well studied, but why these outbreaks suddenly emerged is still a mystery to scientists. Now there is a similar type of disease affecting snakes.

Snake Fungal Disease was first identified in the North-eastern United States in 2006. The disease - manifested by skin lesions, usually on the snake's head - is now found throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and effects everything from rattlesnakes to the common garter snake.

A new study by Dr. Jeffrey Lorch, from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, has identified the fungus (Ophidiomyces) that is causing the disease. With this knowledge, researchers can better understand how the deadly disease emerges and then work toward mitigating its impact on snake populations. 

Related Links

- Paper in mBio, journal of the American Society for Microbiology
- USGS National Wildlife Health Center release
- American Society For Microbiology release
- Discovery News story