White Nose Syndrome -Some Hope For Bats?
From Patricia Doyle PhD
Hello Jeff - There is now a scientific effort underway to research European bats in an attempt to understand why they survive White Nose Syndrome fungus.
  Maybe the European bats have not really differed from North American bats. We always here that bat population in Europe is far less than that in North America so maybe, at one time, European bats had died off from the fungus only it was not as noticeable as here in North America. It might have happened a century or more ago.
Bats take a very long time to replenish their numbers. The European bats who would be the progeny of surviving bats might also have immunity thus we do not see those bats effected by WNS fungus.
I don't think any scientists have mentioned how long the fungus has been in Europe therefore I might say it could have been a hundred or two hundred years ago.
If this is the case then a hundred years or more from now the progeny of the tiny brown bats that are being found in some areas might also be immune to the fungus here in North America. A hundred years from now our bat population numbers might also mirror what Europe bats numbers are today.
I would like to see the upcoming bat research come up with a way to save our existing bats but that might not be possible. We may have to settle for a long term solution that will only happen via nature and not man. Sometimes man cannot fix things, we have to rely on nature and this is probably one of those times.
European Bats Could Differ From North American Bats
By Wilson Ring
Seattle Pi 1-8-12
A scientist studying the mysterious fungal ailment killing millions of bats across Vermont, New York and other states says the experiences of European bats that have been infected with a similar fungus that they've survived could provide lessons in the best way to control white nose fungus.
Most scientists believe the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in North America was brought from Europe, from where it was 1st introduced into caves in New York state. Definitive proof that the fungus is an invasive species has not yet been shown, though a study that could make that link is nearing completion.
"We have done an experiment and are analyzing the data," said Craig Willis, a biology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, who has been studying the issue with money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other sources. "If we find evidence of the invasive species hypothesis, then it makes very good sense on focusing our efforts on European bats in hopes that we might come up with some approach for managing the disease in North America."
While definitive proof is lacking, many scientists studying white nose are convinced the fungus that causes the white patch that gives the disease its name came from Europe, making the fungus another in a long line of invasive species.
Among those that have reached Vermont are the invasive algae known as didymo, or rock snot, that can overwhelm cold-water streams; and zebra mussels that are expanding in Lake Champlain. Scientists are also warily watching for the arrival of the Asian long-horned beetle, which threatens maple trees, and the emerald ash borer, which threatens ash trees.
Bats infected with white nose awaken from their winter hibernation and die when they fly into the winter landscape, where they can't find food. The fungus was 1st detected in New York's Adirondack Mountains in 2006 and is spreading across North America. It's believed to have killed at least a million bats, though precise numbers are impossible to determine.
"It would meet the definition of an exotic invasive organism," said Scott Darling, a biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife who has led the state's work on white nose since the mysterious death of thousands of bats in the state was 1st noticed. "For some of us in this game, the invasive species battle has been focused on reptiles, amphibians or mammals as well as plants. Now we're dealing with microbes, and that's a whole other battle."
In Wisconsin, where white nose has yet to be found, the fungus has been listed as an invasive species. The listing helps officials get the word out about the threat and look for the fungus early on. It also allows the Department of Natural Resources to work with property owners to determine the best management for their site, which could including installing gates on caves and hanging bat closure signs, said Erin Crain, an endangered resources section chief for the department.
The fungus that causes white nose, _Geomyces destructans_, is almost identical to the fungus found on bats in Europe, but it does not appear to have the mortality in Europe that it does in North America, studies have shown.
Willis said there are 2 basic theories that could explain why white nose is so destructive in North America but not in Europe.
One is that the North American fungus existed here but went unnoticed until it mutated and became more deadly. The 2nd is that the European fungus was brought to North America, where bats are unable to fight off the infection.
If it is proven to be an invasive species -- and the study Willis is leading is expected to be published in 3 to 4 months -- an important next step would be to try to determine why European bats survive exposure to the fungus and most North American bats do not.
It could be that the environment in the caves in which the European bats live is different, which would slow the growth of the fungus. If so, steps could be taken to protect certain caves in an effort to ensure the bats are living in a better environment. Or it could be that there are biological mechanisms that make European bats less susceptible to white nose.
If the environment in European caves is different, that would offer a concrete way to protect some of the bats.
"Adjusting the environment of a bat hibernacula is risky and likely impractical, but if we do find that the environment plays a major role in how the disease works, it's something to think about," Willis said.
-- Communicated by ProMED-mail
We have known for some time that bats in Europe do not respond the same way as bats in North America. Perhaps the upcoming research will identify the reason why. Let us hope it is something significant that will contribute toward bat survival. - Mod.TG
A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics Univ of West Indies Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at: Also my new website: Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa Go with God and in Good Health
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