Action: Sterilize equipment when moving between amphibian sites
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no evidence for the effects of sterilizing equipment when moving between amphibian sites on the spread of disease between amphibian populations or individuals.
- Two randomized, replicated, controlled study in Switzerland and Sweden found that Virkon S disinfectant did not affect survival, mass or behaviour of common frog or common toad tadpoles or moor frog embryos or hatchlings. One of the studies found that bleach significantly reduced survival of common frog and common toad tadpoles.
The movement of field biologists increases the risk of spreading wildlife diseases such as the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. For example, the chytrid fungus has been found to survive in lake water for seven weeks and tap water for three weeks after introduction (Johnson & Speare 2003). Precautions therefore need to be taken to reduce the risk of spreading diseases between sites and populations. This is also the case within and between captive populations.
We found no evidence for the effects of sterilizing equipment when moving between amphibian sites on the spread of disease between amphibian populations. The studies captured here examine the effect of different types of disinfectants on amphibians.
There is additional literature examining the effectiveness of using a range of disinfectants to kill the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Most chemicals killed 100% of chytrid zoospores when used at certain concentrations (e.g. sodium chloride, household bleach, potassium permanganate, formaldehyde solution, Path-XTM agricultural disinfectant, quaternary ammonium compound 128, Dithane, Virkon, ethanol and benzalkonium chloride; Johnson et al. 2003; Webb et al. 2007). Complete drying of the fungus or heating above 37°C for at least four hours also resulted in 100% mortality (Johnson et al. 2003).
Johnson M.L., Berger L., Philips L. & Speare R. (2003) Fungicidal effects of chemical disinfectants, UV light, desiccation and heat on the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 57, 255–260.
Johnson M. & Speare R. (2003) Survival of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in water: quarantine and disease control implications. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 9, 922–925.
Webb R., Mendez D., Berger L. & Speare R. (2007) Additional disinfectants effective against the amphibian chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 74, 13–16.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 30 artificial pools in Switzerland (Schmidt et al. 2009) found that Virkon S disinfectant did not affect survival, mass or behaviour of common frog Rana temporaria and common toad Bufo bufo tadpoles, but bleach did. Survival did not differ between Virkon treatments for frogs (untreated: 70–100%; low dose: 90–100%; high dose: 40–100%) or toads (untreated: 90–100%; low dose: 100%; high dose: 70–100%). All tadpoles died within 1–2 days in high dose bleach. Survival was significantly lower in low dose bleach than untreated water for frogs (20–100 vs 70–100%) and toads (40–100 vs 90–100%). Frog tadpole mass was significantly higher in low dose bleach (0.5–0.6 g) than other treatments (0.3–0.5 g). Toad tadpole mass did not differ (0.2–0.4 g). The proportion of tadpoles feeding did not differ significantly for frogs (0.4–0.9) or toads (0.6–0.9). Local leaves, phytoplankton, zooplankton and a snail were added to artificial pools (80 L). Disinfectants (bleach 2%; Virkon 10 g/L) that would be used for boots and field equipment were applied to pools once a week at high (0.04 L) or low doses (0.004 L), with 0.060 L or 0.096 L of water respectively. Water was added as the control. Treatments were replicated five times and assigned randomly to tubs. Ten frog and toad tadpoles were added to each treatment.
A randomized, replicated, controlled study in 2011 of captive moor frogs Rana arvalis at Uppsala University, Sweden (Hangartner & Laurila 2012) found that Virkon S disinfectant had no significant effects on moor frog embryos and hatchlings, but did reduce hatching success. Embryonic survival was significantly lower in the low (92%), but not high concentration of Virkon S (94%) compared to the control (99%). Abnormalities were infrequent in all treatments (low: 3%; high: 4%; control: 1%). Hatchling body length did not differ between treatments (5 mm). However, hatching success was lower with Virkon S compared to without, suggesting that it may have weak negative effects on amphibian embryos. Embryos and hatchlings were reared at 19°C in high (5 mg/L) and low (0.5 mg/L) Virkon S concentrations and in a control of water. One embryo and six hatchlings from each of six clutches were used per treatment. Survival was recorded daily until the free swimming stage and hatchling length for seven days.
- Schmidt B.R., Geiser C., Peyer N., Keller N. & vonRütte M. (2009) Assessing whether disinfectants against the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis have negative effects on tadpoles and zooplankton. Amphibia-Reptilia, 30, 313-319
- Hangartner S. & Laurila A. (2012) Effects of the disinfectant Virkin S on early life-stages of the moor frog (Rana arvalis). Amphibia-Reptilia, 33, 349-353