Rapid, Reliable Detection of the White Nose Syndrome Pathogen

Research Issue

[photo:] Soil sample in the lab.

Research Issue

The recent emergence of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats of eastern North America has revealed a knowledge gap regarding fungal communities associated with bats and their hibernacula. At best, only 5 to 10 percent of fungal species on Earth have been named and scientifically described. Developing a specific test for this fungus was difficult because every sample from bats and caves contained a huge diversity of unidentified, unnamed fungi, and these species interfered with detection.

Our Research

Drs. Daniel Lindner and Jessie Glaeser investigated the diversity of fungi in soil samples collected from 24 bat hibernacula in the eastern United States. Ribosomal RNA regions were sequenced for preliminary characterizations of the isolates.

Expected Outcomes

[photo:] Geomyces destructans grown in the lab.  Photo by Dan Lindner, USFS NRS.Further characterization of the diversity of fungi that occur in hibernacula will both facilitate an improved understanding of the ecology of Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly known as Geomyces destructans) within this complex fungal community and provide an opportunity to identify characteristics that differentiate P. destructans from non-pathogenic relatives.  This work also lays the groundwork for finding virulent genes and potentially preventing them from being expressed.

Geomyces species were one of the most abundant and diverse groups cultured, representing about one-third of all isolates. P. destructans was isolated from soil samples from three hibernacula in states where WNS is known to occur, and many of the other cultured Geomyces isolates likely represent undescribed taxa.

This work was a first step in developing a highly sensitive DNA-based technique for early identification of P. destructans on bats as well as in soils and on cave walls. The DNA-based technique is suitable for detecting P. destructans in almost any kind of sample, and the test is 100-fold more sensitive than the next best test.

Research Results

Drees, K.P.; Palmer, J.M.; Sebra, R.; Lorch, J.M.; Chen, C.; Wu, C.C.; Bok, J.W.; Keller, N.P.; Blehert, D.S.; Cuomo, C.A.; Lindner, D.L.; Foster, J.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), pp.e00445-16.

Lorch, J.; Minnis, A.; Meteyer, C.; Redell, J.; White, J.; Kaarakka, H.; Muller, L.; Lindner, D.L.; Verant, M.; Shearn-Bochsler, V.; Blehert, D. 2015. The Fungus Trichophyton redellii sp. nov. Causes Skin Infections that Resemble White-nose Syndrome of Hibernating Bats. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 51(1):36-47. 

Shuey, M.M.; Drees, K.P.; Lindner, D.L.; Keim, P.; Foster, J.T. 2014. A highly sensitive qPCR for the detection and differentiation of Pseudogymnoascus destructans and Pseudogymnoascus species. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80(5):1726-1731. 

Luna, T.; Lindner, D.L.; Dumroese, R.K. 2014. Roost trees—growing hickories (Carya spp.) to assist recovery of bat populations. Native Plants Journal 15: 66–74.

Palmer, J.M.; Kubatova, A.; Novakova, A.; Minnis, A.M.; Kolarik, M.; Lindner, D.L. 2014. Molecular characterization of a heterothallic mating system in Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus causing white-nose syndrome of bats. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 4(9):1755-1763. 

Lorch, J.M.; Muller, L.K.; Russell, R.E.; O’Connor, M.; Lindner, D..L; Blehert, D.S. 2013. Distribution and environmental persistence of the causative agent of white-nose syndrome, Geomyces destructans, in bat hibernacula of the eastern United States.  Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79(4): 1293-1301. 

Lorch, J.M.; Lindner, D.L.; Gargas, A.; Muller, L.K.; Minnis, A.M.; Blehert, D.S. 2013. A culture-based survey of fungi in soil from bat hibernacula in the eastern United States and its implications for detection of Geomyces destructans, the causal agent of bat white-nose syndrome. Mycologia 105(2): 237-252. 

Minnis, A.M.; Lindner, D.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(9): 638-649.

Muller, Laura K; Lorch, Jeffrey M.; Lindner, Daniel L.; O'Connor, Michael; Gargas, Andrea; Blehert, David S. 2013. Bat white-nose syndrome: A real-time TaqMan polymerase chain reaction test targeting the intergenic spacer region of Geomyces destructans. Mycologia. 105(2): 253-259.

Lindner, Daniel L.; Gargas, Andrea; Lorch, Jeffrey M.; Banik, Mark T.; Glaeser, Jessie A.; Kunz, Thomas H.; Blehert, David S. 2011. DNA-based detection of the fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans in soils from bat hibernacula. Mycologia. 103(2): 241-246.

Research Participants

  • Daniel Lindner & Jessie Glaeser, Research Plant Pathologists, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station
  • David Blehert, US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center
  • Laura Muller, US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center
  • Jeffrey Lorch, University of Wisconsin
  • Andrea Gargas, Symbiology LLC
  • Michael O’Conner, Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostics Lab

Research Issue

The recent emergence of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in hibernating bats of eastern North America has revealed a knowledge gap regarding fungal communities associated with bats and their hibernacula. At best, only 5 to 10 percent of fungal species on Earth have been named and scientifically described. Developing a specific test for this fungus was difficult because every sample from bats and caves contained a huge diversity of unidentified, unnamed fungi, and these species interfered with detection.

Our Research

Drs. Daniel Lindner and Jessie Glaeser investigated the diversity of fungi in soil samples collected from 24 bat hibernacula in the eastern United States. Ribosomal RNA regions were sequenced for preliminary characterizations of the isolates.

  • Last modified: January 2, 2018