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article imageDeadly bat disease follows seasonal patterns

By Tim Sandle     Dec 13, 2014 in Environment
The infectious fungal disease of bats called white-nose syndrome appears linked, in part, to the seasonal dynamics of infection and transmission. This is based on a new study.
A fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans causes white-nose syndrome in bats and it has been causing havoc among bat populations across North America. The infection strikes bats during their winter hibernation, leaving them weakened and susceptible to starvation and secondary infections. The hibernation issue is the main concern because the fungus thrives at low temperatures, and spreads to bats whose body temperature drops below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fungus grows as a white substance on the nose of bats and quickly kills them. The fungus was first identified in 2006 and since then it has been detected in 22 U.S. states and also in Canada.
Exploring the hibernation issue further, a new study has found an interesting observation. Scientists have discovered that during the winter, when the bats are hibernating, the fungus is capable of infecting every bat in a colony. However, those bats that survive the winter are able to clear the infection during summer when their body temperatures increase. It is speculated that the rising body temperature outpaces the growth rate of the fungus, meaning that the fungus is no longer able to grow and to survive.
Potentially the study provides useful information for planning strategies to manage white-nose syndrome. If researchers can develop an effective treatment then the optimal time to apply it would be early winter. One possible treatment being considered is a "probiotic" treatment using bacteria to suppress the growth of the fungus.
The latest research has been carried out by biologists based at University of California, Santa Cruz, and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (in a study called “Host and pathogen ecology drive the seasonal dynamics of a fungal disease, white-nose syndrome.”)
More about Bats, White nose syndrome, Fungus
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