In a study published earlier this year, Allender and his colleagues evaluated how common disinfectants work against the fungus. Alcohol, bleach and certain other over-the-counter cleaners did a good job, but intriguingly, a common agricultural fungicide did not. He said further studies are needed to determine what role, if any, the fungicide's active ingredient-propiconazole-could play in the spread of snake fungal disease.
Jeffrey Lorch, a microbiologist with the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, told Seeker that he does not believe there is a connection between these particular agricultural fungicides and the emergence of the disease "unless the fungicides are causing the immune system of snakes not to function properly."
Although the jury is still out on this matter, both he and Allender say climate change is contributing to the prevalence and severity of snake fungal disease.
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Lorch explained that snakes, as cold-blooded creatures, "are very sensitive to changes in temperature. Their immune systems generally function best at a particular temperature, and they need to find an area in their habitat where the temperatures are suitable for fighting an infection."
In locations where the reptiles can't find these optimal conditions, they are more at risk of infection, he said, adding that habitat fragmentation and degradation also limit their ability to access ideal microclimates.
If snakes continue to die out, rodents they eats could increase in number, heightening our chances for contracting rodent-harbored diseases that can be transmitted to us.
There is yet another related ominous threat to our species, and to other animals.
"Since the emergence of snake fungal disease may be linked to climate change, there are concerns that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg," Lorch said. "As the climate continues to change, the disease may become more of a problem."