Treatment of White-nose Syndrome of Bats

Research Issue

Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) being checked for signs of WNS.White-nose syndrome of bats (WNS) continues to decimate North American hibernating bat species. The disease is caused by a psychrophilic (cold-loving) fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which was likely introduced into North American from Eurasia. Research has identified that there was a single introduction of P. destructans into North America in 2006, which has since spread to 31 states, including an apparent long-distance jump to Washington state. There are currently no known viable treatment options for WNS as it continues to threaten hibernating bat species.

Our Research

Building off of our previous research on the evolutionary relationships among fungi related to P. destructans, we initiated a comparative genomics study to compare the pathogen to 6 closely related non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus species. Analyses of genomic data identified that P. destructans has likely been a pathogen of bats for millions of years.  Additionally, this research discovered that P. destructans is missing a key enzyme involved in a DNA repair pathway and therefore is extremely sensitive to ultra-violet (UV) light. Sensitivity to UV light is a potential “Achilles Heel” of the pathogen that could be exploited as a WNS treatment option. Therefore, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department and Natural Resources and Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) we have initiated a laboratory-based study to investigate treating WNS-infected bats with UV light.  Bats in the treatment trial will be continuously monitored during hibernation using motion-activated infrared cameras.  Survivability, hibernation dynamics, and P. destructans levels will be compared between UV treated bats to non-treated control bats.

Expected Outcomes

This study will determine if UV light is a potential treatment option for WNS-infected bats.

Research Results

Lorch, Jeffrey M.; Palmer, Jonathan M.; Lindner, Daniel L.; Ballmann, Anne E.; George, Kyle G.; Griffin, Kathryn; Knowles, Susan; Huckabee, John R.; Haman, Katherine H.; Anderson, Christopher D.; Becker, Penny A.; Buchanan, Joseph B.; Foster, Jeffrey T.; Blehert, David S.; McMahon, Katherine 2016. First detection of bat white-nose syndrome in western North America.  mSphere. 1(4): e00148-16. 5 p. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00148-16.

Drees, Kevin; Palmer, Jonathan; Sebra, Robert; Lorch, Jeffrey M.; Chen, Cynthia; Wu, Cheng-Cang; Bok, Jin Woo; Keller, Nancy P.; Blehert, David S.; Cuomo, Christina; Lindner, Daniel L.; Foster, Jeffrey T. 2016. Use of multiple sequencing technologies to produce a high-quality genome of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of bat white-nose syndrome.  Genome Announcements. 4(3). e00445-16. 2 p. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/genomeA.00445-16.

Palmer, Jonathan M.; Kubatova, Alena; Novakova, Alena.; Minnis, Andrew M.; Kolarik, Miroslav; Lindner, Daniel L.   2014. Molecular characterization of a heterothallic mating system in Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus causing white-nose syndrome of bats.  Genes|Genomes|Genetics. 4(9): 1755-1763.

Minnis, Andrew M.; Lindner, Daniel L. 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.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Daniel Lindner, US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Plant Pathologist
  • Jonathan Palmer, US Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Plant Pathologist

Research Partners

  • Last modified: January 2, 2018