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Great Lakes Article:

Plant pesticide linked to frog deformities

Associated Press
07/20/2002

COULD plant pesticide be the factor which has been causing frogs around the United States and Canada to become deformed?

Scientists have so far narrowed the causes of deformities to either a tiny, aquatic parasite or wetland contamination from chemicals that might threaten other life forms, including people.

Now, research suggests that for at least some outbreaks, both factors could be involved and acting in concert.

The findings come from Dr Joseph Kiesecker of Pennsylvania State University, the same researcher who last year linked amphibian declines in the western United States to global warming.

Dr Kiesecker tested whether agricultural pesticides - a prime suspect in malformation - make developing frogs more susceptible to infection by a parasite known as a trematode.

The parasite, which uses frogs as 'intermediate hosts' in a complex life cycle, causes leg deformities in developing tadpoles by tunnelling under their skin and becoming encysted, usually at the base of their growing hind legs.

Dr Kiesecker thinks pesticides amplify the process significantly by weakening the frogs' immune systems and making them less able to resist parasitic infections.

Another scientist, Dr David Gardiner of the University of California, said: 'If it's true that commonly used pesticides compromise the immune system of a vertebrate organism, which is what these findings suggest, then we're looking at a much bigger problem than deformed frogs.'

Further studies are necessary to determine whether the problem would affect the human food chain, he added.

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