The early detection and identification of pathogenic microorganisms is essential in order to deploy appropriate mitigation measures. Viruses in the Iridoviridae family, such as those in the Ranavirus
genus, can infect amphibian species without resulting in mortality or clinical signs, and they can also infect other hosts than amphibian species. Diagnostic techniques allowing the detection of the pathogen outside the period of host die-off would thus be of particular use. In this study, we tested a method using environmental DNA (eDNA) on a population of common frogs (Rana temporaria
) known to be affected by a Ranavirus
in the southern Alps in France. In six sampling sessions between June and September (the species’ activity period), we collected tissue samples from dead and live frogs (adults and tadpoles), as well as insects (aquatic and terrestrial), sediment, and water. At the beginning of the breeding season in June, one adult was found dead; at the end of July, a mass mortality of tadpoles was observed. The viral DNA was detected in both adults and tadpoles (dead or alive) and in water samples, but it was not detected in insects or sediment. In live frog specimens, the virus was detected from June to September and in water samples from August to September. Dead tadpoles that tested positive for Ranavirus
were observed only on one date (at the end of July). Our results indicate that eDNA can be an effective alternative to tissue/specimen sampling and can detect Ranavirus
presence outside die-offs. Another advantage is that the collection of water samples can be performed by most field technicians. This study confirms that the use of eDNA can increase the performance and accuracy of wildlife health status monitoring and thus contribute to more effective surveillance programs.
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