Fungus Behind Disease Decimating Bat Populations

Oct 28, 2011 | Amy L. Sonricker Hansen |

Wednesday, Oct. 26 2011, Nature published a study providing the first direct evidence between the fungus Geomyces destructans and white-nose syndrome (WNS). The study was conducted on a sample of healthy little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) collected from an area free of WNS. The bats were directly administered G. destructans either via spores applied to their skin or through direct contact with infected bats. After 102 days, the G. destructans fungus was growing on all of the bats that had spores directly administered to their skin and on 16 of the 18 bats exposed to infected bats.

The fungus was shown to infect the skin of hibernating bats, causing lesions on wings and additional white, fluffy growth on the muzzles of the infected bats. The study not only directly links G. destructans to WNS, but also provides the first experimental evidence that the fungus can be spread from one bat to another. It is hoped that these findings will help focus future actions regarding WNS. With over 1 million bats killed since 2006, some species may be extinct in New England within 15 years

Please visit HealthMap Disease Daily reports from April 19, 2011, August 11, 2010 and March 10, 2009 for background information on WNS. Additional information can be found at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information site on WNS (http://www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/index.html) and at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center’s WNS information page (http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/white-nose_syndrome/).

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