The population genetics of the causative agent of snake fungal disease indicate recent introductions to the USA

Jason T. Ladner, Jonathan M. Palmer, Cassandra L. Ettinger, Jason E. Stajich, Terence M. Farrell, Brad M. Glorioso, Becki Lawson, Steven J. Price, Anne G. Stengle, Daniel A. Grear, Jeffrey M. Lorch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


ASUna:kPelfeuansgecaolndfiisremathsaeta(SllhFeDa;doinpghleidvieolmsayrecroespirse)s,ecnatuedsceodrrbeycttlhye: pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola (Oo), has been documented in wild snakes in North America and Eurasia, and is considered an emerging disease in the eastern United States of America. However, a lack of historical disease data has made it challenging to determine whether Oo is a recent arrival to the USA or whether SFD emergence is due to other factors. Here, we examined the genomes of 82 Oo strains to determine the pathogen's history in the eastern USA. Oo strains from the USA formed a clade (Clade II) distinct from European strains (Clade I), and molecular dating indicated that these clades diverged too recently (approximately 2,000 years ago) for transcontinental dispersal of Oo to have occurred via natural snake movements across Beringia. A lack of nonrecombinant intermediates between clonal lineages in Clade II indicates that Oo has actually been introduced multiple times to North America from an unsampled source population, and molecular dating indicates that several of these introductions occurred within the last few hundred years. Molecular dating also indicated that the most common Clade II clonal lineages have expanded recently in the USA, with time of most recent common ancestor mean estimates ranging from 1985 to 2007 CE. The presence of Clade II in captive snakes worldwide demonstrates a potential mechanism of introduction and highlights that additional incursions are likely unless action is taken to reduce the risk of pathogen translocation and spillover into wild snake populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3001676
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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