Microbes can move around the globe and in the U.S. through various pathways, including trade of animals. Currently, little is known about the presence and impact of microbes in U.S. amphibian trade. Certain shipping and husbandry practices might facilitate the presence of harmful microbes that could negatively impact businesses through revenue losses or result in the implementation of new regulations that negatively affect trade. Similarly, certain practices may create conditions that encourage beneficial microbes that increase amphibian health. PIJAC is teaming up with several universities and industry partners (Josh’s Frogs and Reptiles by Mack) to collect science-based information that will help preserve U.S. amphibian trade. The study is divided into two phases: Phase I will collect preliminary data in 2021, so a more robust, Phase II (industry-wide) evaluation can be performed in 2022-23. The overall goal of the project is to anonymously collect data on the commonness of beneficial and harmful microbes in trade, and identify practices that promote amphibian health. We also will collect sociological and economic data that can be used by PIJAC and partners to protect the future of amphibian pet ownership and businesses.
Yes. We welcome feedback from businesses, hobbyists and consumers about how to improve the testing kits and sociological survey. We would like to know about any confusing, tedious or difficult procedures / questions that you encountered. Because this is a pilot study, your feedback will be useful in designing an improved, more robust evaluation in 2022. You also are welcome to provide suggestions on future data that could be collected to help U.S. amphibian trade. Comments can be submitted via our blog (https://onehealth.tennessee.edu/pijac-blog/) or emailed to one of the study contacts at the bottom of the page.
Aggregated (not individual) results from this pilot study will be published and possibly presented at scientific or stakeholder meetings. They also will be shared with PIJAC to solicit government support for a variety of issues including potentially a subsidized, industry-led healthy trade program. We plan to create outreach materials (e.g., brochures, videos, podcasts) for businesses and consumers that promote healthy trade practices and discuss economic costs. All products produced during this study will be made available on the project website (https://tiny.utk.edu/pijac).
A microbe is a bacterium, fungus or virus that can be benign, beneficial, or harmful to organisms, here amphibians.
Beneficial microbes for amphibians include several bacterial species, especially in the genera Bacillus, Pseudomonas, and Stenotrophomonas. Harmful microbes include two species of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, B. salamandrivorans) and ranaviruses.
Any business involved in the U.S. amphibian pet trade (e.g., retailers, breeders, distributors), including hobbyist breeders, can participate as long as the online socioeconomic survey is completed first. After the socioeconomic survey is completed, a link will be provided to volunteer for the surveillance portion of the project. At this time, surveillance in private amphibian pet owner terrariums is not being performed. There is a plan to expand to consumers in 2022.
A detailed explanation is available here: https://onehealth.tennessee.edu/microbe-surveillance-instructions/.
Kits will be shipped starting the week of 23 August 2021. Upon receipt, we ask that you return samples within two weeks.
There are no material costs – all supplies will be sent to you with pre-paid postage and shipping box. There will be labor costs associated with time spent collecting samples. We anticipate sampling should take 1-3 hours depending on number of samples you are willing to collect.
We understand that for many, participation will be contingent on test results not being linked to their business. We have therefore set up a system where no group in our research team can know both the participating businesses and the test results. Your shipping information will be sent only to PIJAC, and PIJAC will be responsible for sending you a test kit, but they are not involved in the process any further. So, PIJAC will know who the participants are, but not the results. The kit you receive will have a unique ID and you will be asked to create a unique PIN. Both items will be needed to retrieve your results from a special-purpose website. When researchers receive your test kit swabs and filters, they will know only the ID and PIN, so will not be able to identify the business from which it came. The results will be aggregated, hence results from individual businesses will not be shared.
Because of the anonymity restrictions, the only person that will know that a potentially harmful microbe was detected in your business is you. Upon learning the result, additional testing or treatment advice can be provided confidentially if desired. General testing and treatment protocols are provided on the project website (https://onehealth.tennessee.edu/microbe-surveillance-instructions/).
Anyone can participate also long as they sell, purchased, or have received amphibians. Participants can include businesses (e.g., retailers, breeders, distributors), hobbyists, or consumers.
This is a pilot (preliminary) study to increase understanding of stakeholders’ (consumers’ and businesses’) knowledge and experiences with harmful and beneficial microbes in amphibian trade. We also seek to identify practices that can be used to promote beneficial microbes and reduce harmful microbes in trade.
If you agree to be in this study, you will complete an online survey. The survey includes questions about your knowledge and perception of disease risk and characteristics of your business or home terrarium(s). It should take you about 10-15 minutes to complete. You can skip questions that you do not want to answer.
No. The survey is anonymous, and no one will be able to link your responses back to you. Your responses to the survey will not be linked to your computer, email address or other electronic identifiers.
We don’t know of any risks to you from being in the study more than that you experience in everyday life.
Even though this survey collects anonymized responses only, the research team will follow the government guidelines for human subjects research to protect the data. All responses will be saved in a password-protected device for analysis and destroyed after the study is complete. Only the authorized project personnel with certification for handling human subject data will have access to survey data.
While there is no direct benefit at the time of survey participation, information you provide will help characterize the societal and economic value of U.S. amphibian trade, and identify strategies to minimize disease risk. We hope the knowledge gained from this study will help protect the future of amphibian pet ownership and businesses. A limited number of wishing respondents will be able to participate in the free, anonymous microbe testing portion of this study and will receive a gift card.
Aggregated results from this study will be published and possibly presented at scientific or stakeholder meetings. They also will be shared with industry (PIJAC) to solicit government support for a variety of issues including the potential for a subsidized, industry-led healthy trade program.
No. We are only interested in general practices used that promote healthy amphibians.
Yes, the survey will request information on annual sales of amphibians, but you will select from range of values; specific values are unnecessary and not requested.
If you have questions or concerns about this study, or have experienced a research related problem or injury, please contact one of the individuals on the “Contact Us” tab of this website.