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article imageKiller bat fungus: Is a cure imminent?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 30, 2013 in Environment
U.S. Forest Service researchers have identified a fungus close to the species thought to cause White Nose Syndrome in bats, which is a major killer disease of bats in North America. This could help with the development of a cure.
Digital Journal has previously reported on the killer fungus affecting North American bats. The cause of the bat deaths is a type of fungus which grows as a white substance on the nose of bats and quickly kills them (hence the common name 'white-nose fungus'). The fungus has been given the name Geomyces destructans.
It has been estimated that 5.7 to 6.7 million bats have succumbed to the disease in United States and Canada over the past five years. The fungus appears to be adapted to attacking hibernating bats and once infected there is a 100 per cent mortality rate. The fungus also cause unusual behavior, with infected bats seen flying outside during the day in temperatures at or below freezing (bats typically hibernate in caves during cold spells).
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that the die-off from white-nose syndrome means that at least 2.4 million pounds of bugs (1.1 million kg) will go uneaten and become a financial burden to farmers.
As part of the search for a cure, scientists have focused on a closely related fungus to the one that causes ‘white nose’. The fungus that is similar to the deadly disease is found in bat hibernation sites and even directly on bats, but they do not cause the devastating disease. Scientists hope that by examining these fungi a cure can be found for the ‘white nose’ disease. The scientists will undertake various genetic level investigations (application of a highly sensitive DNA-based techniques) to find out why the related fungus does not cause disease whereas the fungus that cause ‘white nose’ does.
The research has been carried out at the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station in Madison, Wisconsin. The findings have been published in the journal Fungal Biology.
More about Bats, Fungus, White nose syndrome, Bat
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