Snake fungal disease: An emerging threat to wild snakes

Jeffrey M. Lorch, Susan Knowles, Julia S. Lankton, Kathy Michell, Jaime L. Edwards, Joshua M. Kapfer, Richard A. Staffen, Erik R. Wild, Katie Z. Schmidt, Anne E. Ballmann, Doug Blodgett, Terence M. Farrell, Brad M. Glorioso, Lisa A. Last, Steven J. Price, Krysten L. Schuler, Christopher E. Smith, James F.X. Wellehan, David S. Blehert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Since 2006, there has been a marked increase in the number of reports of severe and often fatal fungal skin infections in wild snakes in the eastern USA. The emerging condition, referred to as snake fungal disease (SFD), was initially documented in rattlesnakes, where the infections were believed to pose a risk to the viability of affected populations. The disease is caused by Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus recently split from a complex of fungi long referred to as the Chrysosporium anamorph of Nannizziopsis vriesii (CANV). Here we review the current state of knowledge about O. ophiodiicola and SFD. In addition, we provide original findings which demonstrate that O. ophiodiicola is widely distributed in eastern North America, has a broad host range, is the predominant cause of fungal skin infections in wild snakes and often causes mild infections in snakes emerging from hibernation. This new information, together with what is already available in the scientific literature, advances our knowledge of the cause, pathogenesis and ecology of SFD. However, additional research is necessary to elucidate the factors driving the emergence of this disease and develop strategies to mitigate its impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20150457
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1709
StatePublished - Dec 5 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


  • Dermatitis
  • Emerging disease
  • Fungal infection
  • North America
  • Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola
  • Snake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (all)


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