British snakes could face ‘wipe out’ from skin disease | Nature | News

The deadly fungus covers snakes in ugly blisters and scabs and leaves them unable to hunt down and eat prey.

Snake Fungal Disease has already attacked 30 species in at least 15 states but has now been discovered in the UK and Europe.

Scientists say the fungus strain found in British grass snakes is different from the American disease but is equally deadly.

National Geographic warned last week that the spread of the disease through serpent species, including America’s iconic rattlesnakes, is potentially disastrous as the reptiles keep vermin such as rats and mice in check.

News of SFD cases in the UK was announced today 24 hours after BBC’s Countryfile screened a special report on conservation efforts being made to save the nation’s remaining 100,000 adders.

There are an estimated 300,000 grass snakes across Britain but there are serious conservation concerns and the species has protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act as well as being a priority creature under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The discovery of domestic snake with SFD will only heighten conservation concerns.

Details of the disease’s presence in the UK and Europe was announced today in a new collaborative study led by the Zoological Society of London and published in the journal, Scientific Reports.

SFD is caused by a fungus called Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola and, prior to the study, had only been found in central and eastern USA, but an analysis of samples collected from wild snakes in the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic between 2010-2016 has confirmed the presence of the pathogen.

Scientists say that although the disease poses no known risk to humans or livestock, further research is vital.

Lead author and wildlife veterinarian Dr Lydia Franklinos said: “Our team at ZSL found evidence of SFD in grass snakes from the UK and a single dice snake from the Czech Republic.

“The analysis found that the fungus strains from Europe are different to those previously identified in North America -…

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