Mysterious Rattlesnake-Killing Infection Emerges

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Mysterious Rattlesnake-Killing Infection Emerges

Post  Admin on Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:57 am

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In south-central Illinois, rare rattlesnakes have been dying from what appears to be aggressive fungal infections that cause grotesque facial lesions.

"What is kind of scary about it is it loves the skin, but once it gets through the skin, it will invade muscle and bone and it is extremely destructive," said Matthew Allender, a wildlife veterinarian affiliated with the University of Illinois who has been studying these infections."I've never quite seen anything like this in a reptile."

Since 2008, four confirmed and two probable cases have turned up in a population of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes of about 50 to 60 individuals. (This species of snakes are candidates for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.) Allender has tried, unsuccessfully, to treat two of these cases, but all have been fatal. [7 Shocking Snake Stories]

A soil-dwelling fungus, Chrysosporium, appears to be responsible. It is a not-too-distant relative of another soil fungus turned killer. Geomyces destructans was recently confirmed as the cause of white-nose syndrome, which has been decimating bat populations in the eastern U.S. after first being spotted in a cave near Albany, N.Y., in 2006.

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