A deadly fungus that affects how some frogs breathe through their skin is threatening hundreds of species around the world, according to a report in The Washington Post Thursday.
A study in the Journal of Science cited by the Post found that as many as 501 species of amphibians could be affected by the fungus, which prevents affected life forms from using their skin to breathe oxygen while on land or in water.
The disease is thought to have spread and gained traction in the 1980s due to two types of the fungus breeding together and creating a hybrid form of the fungus that affects more populations, according to the study.
“It’s a staggering thing to consider,” said one of the study’s authors, Jonathan Kolby, in an interview with the Post. “We’ve never before had a single disease that had the power to make multiple species extinct, on multiple continents, all at the same time.”
Lack of import controls on frog species in the U.S. is thought to contribute to pathogens spreading and hybridizing, as species from around the world are able to be in close proximity for the first time, according to the report.
Kolby, who founded the Honduras Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Center, which cares and researches rain forest creatures, told the Post that there were few laws in place meant to prevent a similar pathogen affecting another species or multiple species arising in the future.
“There’s nothing preventing hybridization from happening again, and if it happens again, who knows what that hybrid offspring will act like,” said Kolby. “We could have another global wave of disease, which could be similar, different or even worse than the one we’re facing now.”