Killer Fungus The Cause Of Million Bats Death

Evidence finally makes management of WNS easier

November 2011: The link between a virulent fungus and the deadly white-nose
syndrome that has killed more than a million bats in North America, appears to
have been confirmed.

A study has discovered that the fungus Geomyces destructans is the
causal agent of WNS. WNS takes its name from the white halos of fungus that
develop around the muzzles of diseased bats. Other symptoms include loss of body
fat, unusual winter behaviour, lesions to the wing membranes and – ultimately –


Photo: Wikipedia

File:Pipistrellus pipistrellus01.jpg

Had been thought bats needed to have a weakened immune
G. destructans has long been thought to be the
likely culprit, because the skin lesions characteristic of the disease are
associated with colonisation of the fungus. Still, the role of G.
in WNS has remained controversial, because evidence proving the
fungus as the primary cause of the disease was lacking.

‘Many assumed that fungal infections in mammals only occur if some other
pathogen has already weakened the immune system,’ said Justin Boyles, who
co-authored the study. ‘Additionally, the recent discovery that G. destructans
commonly colonises the skin of bats in Europe with no major die-offs generated
speculation that other unidentified factors are the primary cause of

To put the speculation to rest, the researchers set up an
experiment to see if G. destructans causes WNS. They housed healthy
little brown bats in a laboratory under hibernation conditions and treated them
with G. destructans. Exposure to the fungus caused WNS in the healthy
bats. They also found that WNS can be transmitted from infected bats to healthy
bats through direct contact.

Gives hope of slowing the spread of the disease
information can be very useful to managers in their efforts to contain the
spread of the disease,’ said Boyles. ‘These results provide the first direct
evidence that G. destructans is the causal agent of WNS and that the
recent emergence of WNS in North America suggests the fungus is new to the
continent and the bats here have not developed immunity to the disease.’

Bat fungus

Since 2006 unprecedented mass mortalities have been recorded
in North American hibernating bat populations. More than a million animals died
and the scale of the problem continues to increase.

The researchers are
hopeful the findings will allow land managers and reseachers to focus efforts on
solutions that may slow the spread of the fungus to new bat populations.

‘By illustrating that the fungus causes WNS, we are taking an instrumental
step in clarifying how this disease develops and how to control it,’ said
Boyles. ‘We hope our findings are useful in guiding management actions to
preserve bat populations against this novel and devastating threat.’


~ by narhvalur on November 15, 2011.

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