SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -

California's drought appears to be reducing the spread of a disease that threatens to wipe out huge swaths of oak trees in the state.

Preliminary results of surveys taken between April and June show between 2 and 10 percent of California bay laurel trees in 17 western counties tested positive for sudden oak death.

Bay trees are hosts for the pathogen and spread it to oak trees.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the infection rate for bay laurels is between 20 and 80 percent when rainfall is plentiful.

Sudden oak death has killed hundreds of thousands of oak trees in California.

Scientists say the drop in the infection rate gives them a chance to go on the offensive and target the host bay trees.