Source: United States Fish and Wildlife Services
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a disease of hibernating bats caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans. Named for the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other body parts of hibernating bats, WNS is associated with extensive mortality of bats in eastern North America.
Symptoms: White-nose syndrome is identified by a white ring around the nose of an infected bat. Infected bats have perished due to an exhaustion of fat supply, which is believed to be caused by this fungus.
Host(s): Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) endangered, Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus).
Bats infected with WNS exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of hibernacula. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines. White-nose syndrome has killed more than 5.7 million bats in North America in the past 8 years. In some hibernacula, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died.
The primary method of Geomyces destructans, is thought to be through bat-to-bat contact, but biologists believe it can also be transferred inadvertently by humans.
First documented in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, white-nose syndrome has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and Canada, and has been detected as far west as Oklahoma.
It is not clear if white-nose syndrome originated in the U.S. or Europe.
U.S. Habitat: Currently, white nose syndrome is only known to infect bats and has not been observed elsewhere.
U.S. Present: CT, IN, KY, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, TN, VT, VA, WV.
There is currently no way to prevent white-nose syndrome, but work is being done to find the cause, transmittance, and cure for this fungus. A collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Alberta and European researchers has occurred. Their studies have focused on identifying the origins and pathology of this fungus. They have studied other fungi that grow in caves and even on bats that are non-lethal and have found some to be closely related to WNS. They hope to use this information to create a way to stop the fungus from causing the lethal WNS disease. Genetic research on the fungi has suggested WNS fungi present in North America is an invasive species. By understanding the evolutionary relationships between the fungus and the mutations in Europe and North America it will facilitate the search for WNS solutions.
In 2014, Two US Forest Service (USFS) research teams received grants from Bat Conservation International and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to fight against WNS. USFS seeks to improve survival of bats infected with WNS by using native soil bacteria to produce natural volatiles that inhibit growth of the fungus that causes the disease. Also, they will test the use of “gene silencing,” a newly emerging technology that is showing promise as a disease-fighting tool. The insights gained could offer a way to render the fungus harmless. The bat treatment studies are scheduled for the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 hibernation seasons.
For more information on the progress of WNS research done by USFS click here.
In 2015, a study published the fungicidal effects of a soil bacteria on White Nose Syndrome. This soil bacteria, closely related to Pseudomonas fluorescens, naturally occurs on bats and other mammals. In a laboratory setting it has demonstrated its ability to reduce the growth on WNS. This study is crucial in finding a preventative and organic measure for QNS management. Also, give the amounts of Pseudomonas spp. found on various bat species could explain the difference in mortality from WNS. Even though further research on the bacteria's effect on WNS need to be performed, this is a great starting point!
Blehert, David S., Alan C. Hicks, Melissa Behr, Carol U. Meteyer, Brenda M. Berlowski-Zier, Elizabeth L. Buckles, Jeremy T. H. Coleman, Scott R. Darling, Andrea Gargas, Robyn Niver, Joseph C. Okoniewski, Robert J. Rudd, and Ward B. Stone. 2009. Bat White-Nose Syndrome: An Emerging Fungal Pathogen? Science 323(5911):227.
Boyles, Justin G., and Craig KR Willis. 2010. Could localized warm areas inside cold caves reduce mortality of hibernating bats affected by white-nose syndrome? Front Ecol Environ 8(2):92-98.
Minnis, Andrew M., Daniel L. Linder. 2013. Phylogenetic evaluation of Geomyces and allies reveals no close relatives of Pseudogymnoascus destructans, comb. nov., in bat hibernacula of eastern North America. Fungal Biology 117:638–649
Uphoff Meteyer, Carol, Elizabeth L. Buckles, David S. Blehert, Alan C. Hicks, D. Earl Green, Valerie Shearn-Bochsler, Nancy J. Thomas, Andrea Gargas, and Melissa J. Behr. 2009. Histopathologic Criteria to Confirm White-nose Syndrome in Bats. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation 21(4):411-414.
USFWS - http://www. fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/