Prevalence of Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, the Causative Agent of Snake Fungal Disease, in the Interior Plateau Ecoregion of Tennessee, USA.J Wildl Dis. 2020 Apr 29 [Online ahead of print]JW
The fungal pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, the causative agent of snake fungal disease, has been implicated in declines of North American snake populations since 2006 and the geographic range of this pathogen is still not fully known. In Tennessee, O. ophiodiicola has been detected since 2012, but large portions of the state have not been surveyed for this pathogen. Our primary objective was to monitor the prevalence of O. ophiodiicola in the Interior Plateau ecoregion of Tennessee by swabbing all snakes that were encountered during road cruising survey efforts in 2017 and 2018. Eleven snakes of four species, copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), common water snake (Nerodia sipedon), black kingsnake (Lampropeltis nigra), and smooth earthsnake (Virginia valeriae), tested positive for the presence of O. ophiodiicola. Overall, 9.2% (11/120) of snakes sampled tested positive for the presence of O. ophiodiiola, and we further observed a seasonal trend in detections with summer months having the greatest frequency of detections. Our results extend the known geographic range of O. ophiodiicola in Tennessee by adding four previously unconfirmed O. ophiodiicola-positive counties. Further sampling will need to be conducted across west Tennessee because this is the most data-deficient region of the state. Our results offer additional evidence of the presence of this pathogen in Tennessee and will help researchers further understand the geographic distribution and host range.