Entire communities of frogs and toads being wiped out by ulcer-causing virus

Expert describes Ranavirus as 'a pretty graphic disease with a high kill-rate'

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A series of deadly new viruses are wiping out amphibians in Spain, a scientific study has found.

The research, published in the journal Current Biology, found that “entire communities” of frogs, toads and newts were falling victim to the so-called Ranavirus.

The virus causes huge ulcers on the skins of the amphibians, who then die of internal bleeding.

Dr Stephen Price, from University College London, described the disease to BBC News as “a pretty graphic disease with a high kill-rate”.

Writing in the paper the scientists warned that the amphibians were experiencing “severe disease and mass mortality events” because of infection from two strains of the highly infectious virus, with a third also causing some damage.

One national park in northern Spain, Picos de Europa, which was the focus of the study, was particularly badly hit.

Researchers said the disease had “catastrophic consequences” for the amphibian population in the affected areas.

The scientists are particularly worried because the diseases appear to be able to cross species barriers, apparently infecting a snake that had eaten an infected animal. It was also said to “evade” natural immunity in animals.

The disease is particularly worrying for the future of the ecosystem because amphibians are already under threat of extinction, according to Conservationists.

41 per cent of all amphibians are on the brink of being wiped out, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Scientists at UCL, the Zoological Society of London, Queen Mary University of London, the Museum of Natural Science in Madrid, and the Picos de Europa National Park were involved in conducting the research.