A BREEDING programme designed to safeguard the future of a rare breed of Majorca toad has infected the species with a highly-contagious disease, which could threaten its existence.

The potentially deadly chytrid fungus, which affects the toads' ability to absorb water into its skin, was passed on to the Majorcan Midwife Toads by a South African species of frog during the captive breeding programme.

A study by scientists from London's Imperial College and reported in Current Biology journal revealed that measures the screen the toads did not pick up the fungus before they were released back into the wild in 1991.

Four colonies of the amphibians are infected by the fungus.