Treatment of White-nose Syndrome

Research Issue

Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) being checked for signs of WNS.White-nose syndrome of bats (WNS) continues to kill hibernating bat species in North America. The disease is caused by a psychrophilic (cold-loving) fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which is native to areas of Europe and Asia. Research has confirmed that there was a single introduction of P. destructans to North America in 2006 and it has since spread to more than 30 states, including a long-distance jump to Washington state. There are currently no known treatment options for bats suffering from WNS.

Our Research

Our genetic research of Pseudogymnoascus destructans builds on previous studies of fungi that are closely related. We compared the genetic makeup of P. destructans to 6 other Pseudogymnoascus species that do not cause white-nose syndrome. We have concluded that P. destructans has likely been sickening bats for millions of years.

We also discovered that P. destructans is missing an important enzyme that helps repair damaged DNA, making the fungus extremely sensitive to ultra-violet (UV) light. We believe that this light sensitivity suggests a potential treatment option for white-nose syndrome. We are therefore working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) on a laboratory-based experiment to see if UV light can be used effectively to treat WNS-infected bats. Bats in the treatment trial are monitored during hibernation using motion-activated infrared cameras. Survival rates, hibernation dynamics, and P. destructans levels will be compared between UV-treated bats and non-treated bats.

Expected Outcomes

This study will determine if UV light is a potential treatment option for WNS-infected bats and, if so, how much UV light is required over what period of time.

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 Investigators

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

Research Partners

  • Last modified: May 6, 2019