Deadly skin-eating fungus threatens UK's great crested newt
A skin-eating fungus that has wiped out 95 per cent of the salamander population in Belgium and the Netherlands has arrived in the UK.
The fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bs), which was discovered in 2013, has infected and killed four salamanders imported to the UK. Researchers have warned that if it escapes into the wild, it could decimate the great crested newt population, a species native to the UK.
It is related to the chytrid fungus, Batrachochuytrium dendrobatidis, which has been wiping out frogs and toads around the world. Chytrid has also been found in the UK but does not seems to have harmed native frogs and toads.
Given that Bs has already been shown to kill great crested newts, its arrival is potentially more serious.
"It's critical that no animals potentially carrying [the fungus] are released into the wild, which is illegal anyway," says Matthew Fisher from Imperial College London.
"Likewise, water and organic matter from collectors and hobbyists shouldn't be dumped down sinks or in gardens without disinfection – 1-per-cent strength bleach will kill the fungus if it's there."
Fisher says that the great crested newt is relatively abundant in the UK. Ironically, that makes the species more vulnerable because the disease could potentially spread more easily than if only isolated colonies existed.
So far, he adds, there is no evidence that the imported fungus has been released into the environment.