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Low disease causing threshold in a frog species susceptible to chytridiomycosis.


A simple diagnosis of the presence or absence of an infection is an uninformative metric when individuals differ considerably in their tolerance to different infection loads or resistance to rates of disease progression. Models that incorporate the relationship between the progression of the infection with the potential alternate outcomes provide a far more powerful predictive tool than diagnosis alone. The global decline of amphibians has been amplified by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, a pathogen that can cause the fatal disease chytridiomycosis. We measured the infection load and observed signs of disease in Litoria aurea Receiver operating characteristic curves were used to quantify the dissimilarity between the infection loads of Litoria aurea that showed signs associated with chytridiomycosis and those that did not. Litoria aurea had a 78% probability of developing chytridiomycosis past a threshold of 68 zoospore equivalents (ZE) per swab and chytridiomycosis occurred within a variable range of 0.5-490 ZE. Studies should incorporate a species-specific threshold as a predictor of chytridiomycosis, rather than a binary diagnosis. Measures of susceptibility to chytridiomycosis must account not only for the ability of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis to increase its abundance on the skin of amphibians but also to determine how each species tolerates these infection loads.