When an animal is infected with something like Bsal, it will also shed bits of that pathogen. So taking samples of the water from salamanders’ tanks can help to detect Bsal, new research shows — and keep it from contaminating millions of animals shipped around the globe as pets. In turn, that may help stop some species from going extinct.

Jesse Brunner

This process — scanning water’s eDNA to look for Bsal — is far more efficient than taking samples from individual animals, reports Jesse Brunner, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, in a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

In the study, Brunner describes the statistical formulas that would underlie this kind of salamander surveillance and explains how scientists would need to scale up the process. Brunner and others are in the process of testing the framework described in the study.

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