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article imageDeadly bat disease set to spread

By Tim Sandle     Feb 3, 2014 in Environment
North American bats face a death toll approaching 7 million due to a fungus called white nose syndrome. As part of the campaign to help eliminate the killer disease, scientists have obtained a new insight into how the fungus spreads. The news is not good.
White Nose Syndrome was first identified in Upstate New York in 2006. Since then it has spread to caves throughout the East Coast and killed millions of bats, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The fungus appears as a white, powdery substance on the muzzles, ears and wings of infected bats and gives them the appearance they've been dunked in powdered sugar. The fungus also causes 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).
Some of the issues are discussed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species biologist Susi von Oettingen in the video below:
In March 2013 the journal Mycologia has published research by a team of U.S. Forest Service scientists and partners identifying the primary fungus as the aptly named Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The horrendous disease likened to smallpox in its devastating effects have been confirmed in 22 US states and five Canadian provinces.
In a new development, University of Akron scientists have revealed new clues about the killer fungus. The new research shows that the fungus can survive in caves with or without the presence of bats. This means that the potential for the fungus to attack bats over many years remains.
The issue is of great importance, for white nose syndrome threatens the regional extinction of North American bats. Especially hit hard is the common Little Brown Bat, which could face extinction. To date, there is no known antidote against the disease, although scientists are researching for a cure.
The new data about the hardiness and spread of the fungus has been published in the journal PLOS One, in a paper titled “Comparison of the White-Nose Syndrome Agent Pseudogymnoascus destructans to Cave-Dwelling Relatives Suggests Reduced Saprotrophic Enzyme Activity.”
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