Frog Loss: A Lesson in Ecology

posted in: malaria awareness, research | 0

Written by Kerre Ann Willsher, PhD

Do you miss the croaking of frogs on summer nights? I know that I do. When I was a child there were thousands of frogs on the creek across the road, and they carried on all night. But they kept the mosquitos down. We know that anopheles mosquitos spread malaria, but not everyone gets the connection with frogs.  It is of concern that frogs in many areas of the World, especially, Central and South America, are now critically endangered or extinct. In many cases, the die-off of frogs is due to a fungal infection called chytridiomycosis which coats the skin so it is unable to breathe (Springborn et al., 2022). The fungus may have spread via globalized trade ventures including the pet trade, along with the destruction of habitat (Springborn et al., 2022).

 A Panamanian Golden Frog which was once common in rain forests of Central America. They are critically endangered due to the fungal infection  chytridiomycosis. The loss of frogs and other amphibians may have contributed to a rise in malaria cases (Cunningham, 2022; Springborn et al., 2022). Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons.

The spread of chytridiomycosis was a catastrophe leading to a worldwide, decades-long destruction of amphibians according to Springborn et al  (2022). There has been a mobile wave of frog destruction across Costa Rica and Panama from the 1980s to the present day (Cunningham, 2022).  The examination of local ecological surveys, public health records, and satellite imagery supports the link between the loss of amphibians and an increase in malaria cases in Central America (Springborn et al., 2022). Nonetheless, there was a drop in malaria cases worldwide from 2010 until 2019 which is attributed to improved health care, the work of the World Health Organization, and organizations such as Rotarians Against Malaria  (Burkot & Gilbert, 2021; World Health Organization, 2019).  A holistic approach that examines the impacts of environmental health on human well-being is essential for the elimination of malaria.   


In some areas of the world, frog populations are being rediscovered after being thought to be extinct.  This is due to genetic changes resulting in an increasing number of frogs developing immunity against chytridiomycosis which has remained as virulent as ever (Rodriguez  & Voyles, 2021; Rosa et al., 2022).  Environmental ecology needs to be managed so that mosquito populations are minimized, and there are fewer cases of malaria. Amphibians have an important role in the elimination of malaria.

Artist unknown.


Burkot, C., & Gilbert, K. (2021). Eliminating again, for the last time: A case study of donor support for malaria in Solomon Islands. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 8(2), 189-207.

Cunningham, A. (2022, October 5, 2022). Losing amphibians may be tied to spikes in human malaria cases.

Rodriguez , K. M., & Voyles, J. (2021). The amphibian complement system and chytridiomycosis.  Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A Ecological and Integrative Physiology ·, 333(10), 706-719. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from

Rosa, G. M., Perez, R., Richards, L. A., ., Richards-Zawacki, C. L., Smilanich, A. M., Reinert, L. K., ., Rollins-Smith, L. A., Wetzel, D. P., ., & Voyles, J. (2022). Seasonality of host immunity in a tropical disease system. Ecosphere, 13(7), e4158.

Springborn, M. R., Weill, J. A., Lips, K. R., Ibáñez, R., & Ghosh1, A. (2022). Amphibian collapses increased malaria incidence in Central America*. Environmental Research Letters, 17(10).

World Health Organization. (2019). World Malaria Report 2019 United Nations.