Bacterial Infection in Amphibians

By PetMD Editorial on Sep. 23, 2008


Amphibians are susceptible to infection by many bacteria, of which several are atypical Mycobacteria. Mycobacteria are microscopic organisms present everywhere in nature. And while amphibians are naturally resistant to mycobacterial infections, a diminished or compromised immunity due to malnutrition, disease or stress, among other things, can make the animal more prone to the infection.

Mycobacteriosis is a contagious disease that can be passed as a skin infection from animals to humans (or a zoonotic infection). Therefore, precaution must be taken while handling an infected amphibian.

Symptoms and Types

  • Weight loss
  • Skin ulcers
  • Mucus or pus-like nasal discharge
  • Small gray lumps in the skin or elsewhere in the body (e.g., the liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs)

Mycobacteriosis is usually a skin infection, however, it can also manifest as a gastrointestinal disease or generalized infection, affecting many areas of the body when the source of infection is food or water.


The Mycobacterium species of bacteria is generally contracted through ingesting contaminated food or water, and, when dealing with the airborne versions of the virus, can be inhaled. But it is the amphibian's compromised immunity due to malnutrition, disease, stress or overcrowded living conditions that ultimately make the animal more prone to Mycobacteriosis.


Your veterinarian will typically gather skin and fecal samples from the amphibian to diagnose Mycobacteriosis. The bacteria is also found in the animal's throat mucus.



Unfortunately, there is no available treatment for this disease. However, the veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat any other secondary bacterial infection.

Living and Management

Since Mycobacteriosis is a zoonotic disease, it is paramount you follow the guidelines set by your veterinarian to prevent the spread of this disease to humans. If you have more than one animal, immediately isolate the infected amphibian(s). Always wear protective eyewear and gloves when handling infected animals or cleaning their environment. Strictly adhering to these strategies might help prevent the spread of this disease.


The best defense for Mycobacteriosis is prevention. Mycobacteria typically live in the slime layer that builds up in aquatic habitats over time. For this reason, weekly cleaning and removal of this film is recommended.

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