Killer frog fungus bodes ill for humans

Scientists have been alarmed for years about a mysterious fungus that wipes out frogs around the globe -- even in the wildlife sanctuaries of Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon national parks.

The fungus blitzes frog populations, allowing little chance for natural defenses to protect the amphibians, new research shows. Now scientists wonder whether some new plague might do the same thing to humans.

"The thought of it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck," said biologist Vance T. Vredenburg of San Francisco State University. "Emerging diseases for humans are cropping up much faster than before, and they might move like this one. We need to understand this."

Vredenburg and three other researchers have just finished two studies on the frog disease, called chytrid fungus, based on years of work in Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon. The studies will appear this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research journal established in 1914.

The frog studies are part of the scientific community's push to better understand the broad die-off of amphibians around the world. Some experts believe it is part of a mass extinction of many animals.

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