Early exposure to Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis causes profound immunosuppression in amphibians

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Fungal pathogens have evolved a broad suite of strategies aiming at evading the host immune response. Amphibians are globally infected by the panzootic chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and, while robust innate immune defences have been characterised, there is little evidence for the existence of effective adaptive immunity. We determine the immune response of the common midwife toad following challenge by Bd as larvae. Immune function was described for both the cell-mediated and antibody-mediated immune responses following infectious challenge as larval amphibians. While there were no significant differences in the ratio of neutrophils/lymphocytes between infected and uninfected individuals, early exposure of tadpoles to Bd significantly dampened the levels of circulating immunoglobulins (IgM and IgY) in the serum of juveniles after metamorphosis. Our results show that Bd immunosuppresses amphibians when infection occurs as larvae with potentially broad effects on the remodelling of immunity during metamorphosis.