Possible Good News For Bats
spring, a possible cure for White-nose Syndrome was found by
researchers at Georgia State University.
The disease is caused by a
fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) that infects bats while they
hibernate. The lowered metabolism of hibernation results in a
compromised immune system that makes them susceptible to disease. They
end up burning fat twice as fast as healthy bats as they try to fight
off the infection. This leaves them without enough fat stores to make
it through the winter, and they effectively “starve” to death.
Biologists discovered that the bacteria Rhodococcus rhodochrousin,
common in soils across North America, produces volatile compounds when
grown on cobalt that are able to stop the White-nose Syndrome fungus
from growing. Some 150 bats have been cured during initial trials so
far, and while it’s early days yet, this offers hope for the future of
bats in North America. To date, White-nose Syndrome has caused the death
of some 6 million bats of 11 species, including some listed as
Little Brown Bats (Myotis lucifugus, shown with the powdered
white skin characteristic of the disease), once common, have suffered
around 94% mortality in the eastern half of the country. The fungus is
thought to have originated in Europe, where it has been found in bats
there that are healthy and apparently immune.
photo by Marvin Moriarty/USFWS
(via: Peterson Field Guides)