The fungus behind white-nose syndrome, a disease that has ravaged bat populations in North America, may have an Achilles’ heel: UV light. White-nose syndrome has spread steadily for the past decade and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, known as P. destructans or Pd.
In the course of genomic analyses of P. destructans, a team of scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of New Hampshire found that the fungus is highly sensitive to UV light. P. destructans can only infect bats during hibernation because it has a strict temperature growth range of about 39-68 degrees Fahrenheit. However, treating bats for the disease during hibernation is challenging, so any weakness of the fungus may be good news to managers trying to develop treatment strategies.
In a study published on Jan. 2 in the journal Nature Communications titled “Extreme sensitivity to ultra-violet light in the fungal pathogen causing white-nose syndrome of bats,” the research team suggests that P. destructans is likely a true fungal pathogen of bats that evolved alongside bat species in Europe and Asia for millions of years, allowing Eurasian bats to develop defenses against it. In the course of comparing P. destructans to six closely related non-pathogenic fungi, researchers discovered that P. destructans is unable to repair DNA damage caused by UV light, which could lead to novel treatments for the disease. The study, which was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is available at: https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/55557
“This research has tremendous implications for bats and people,” said Tony Ferguson, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “Bats play a key role in the health of forests as well as the production of food in the United States, and developing an array of tools with which we can treat bats for white-nose syndrome is important to preserving these very important species.”
The research team generated annotated genomes for P. destructans as well as six non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus species in an effort to gain insight into the origins and adaptations of the fungal pathogen of WNS. Using comparative genomics, the research team noticed that P. destructans lacked a key DNA repair enzyme, prompting them to expose the fungi to DNA damaging agents, including different wavelengths and intensities of UV light. They found that a low dose exposure of UV-C light resulted in about 15 percent survival of P. destructans while a moderate dose exposure resulted in less than 1 percent survival. These values translate to only a few seconds of exposure from a hand-held UV-C light source.
“It is unusual that P. destructans appears to be unable to repair damage caused by UV-light,” said Jon Palmer, a research botanist in the Northern Research Station’s lab in Madison, Wis., and the lead author of the study. “Most organisms that have been found in the absence of light maintain the ability to repair DNA caused by UV light radiation. We are very hopeful that the fungus’ extreme vulnerability to UV light can be exploited to manage the disease and save bats.”
“White-nose syndrome is the single biggest threat to many North American bat species and one of the most pressing conservation challenges facing America’s wildlife today,” said Jeremy Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Investing in defeating WNS must be a priority, and the results from this study and contributing research give us hope that we can develop the tools to more effectively manage the fungus that causes the disease.”
Research on potential treatment using UV light is under way. Daniel Lindner, a research plant pathologist with the Northern Research Station in Madison and the corresponding author on the study, is leading follow-up research to determine if UV-light can be used as a treatment for bats suffering from white-nose syndrome. The study will measure the survival of little brown bats during hibernation after being treated with UV-light compared to control groups. The researchers are also exploring whether there are any non-target effects by measuring changes in the bat skin microbiome (both fungal and bacterial communities). The study, which is funded by a grant from the, National Fish and Wildife Foundation, Bats for the Future Fund began late last year.
The Latest on: White-nose syndrome
- AZGFD receives grant to protect bats on September 17, 2018 at 5:22 pm
The Arizona Game & Fish Dept. received a grant to help protect bats from white-nose syndrome. The $29,839 grant is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was given to 39 states to learn more abou... […]
- Disease could wipe out bats at Carlsbad Caverns on September 16, 2018 at 3:11 pm
The disease is called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), and while it poses no danger to humans, it can be deadly for bats. The disease is spread by a fungus known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). The fu... […]
- Dead bat found in Port aux Basques prompted The Gulf News to seek answers regarding white nose syndrome on September 13, 2018 at 4:48 am
Fisheries and Land Resources biologist Jessica Humber swabs a bat to test for white nose syndrome. - Photo courtesy of Fisheries and Land Resources - Contributed A cat named Fluffy recently brought a ... […]
- Grant will help state combat bat-killing fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome on September 12, 2018 at 1:21 pm
Pennsylvania is getting some extra help in combating white-nose syndrome , a disease that has decimated the cave bat population in the state. A grant of $27,181 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife ... […]
- White-nose syndrome fungus arrives in Texas on September 11, 2018 at 12:27 pm
The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats has been found in 10 Texas counties affecting tricolored bats, cave bats and a Mexican free-tailed bat, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife. The stat... […]
- Vermont Continues To Study Disease Causing Bat Deaths on September 7, 2018 at 8:48 pm
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department biologist Alyssa Bennett says some bat species are harder hit by White-Nose Syndrome than others. The Rutland Herald reports Bennett says six species of bat in Vermo... […]
- White-nose syndrome: Combatting the ‘bat-killing’ fungal disease on September 5, 2018 at 4:57 pm
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is providing much needed support in the fight against the bat-killing fungal disease white-nose syndrome (WNS) through an additional $1 million in ... […]
- Service Provides $1 Million to States to Combat Bat-Killing Fungal Disease ~ VIDEO on September 5, 2018 at 9:33 am
USA –-(AmmoLand.com)- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is providing much-needed support in the fight against the bat-killing fungal disease white-nose syndrome (WNS) through an additional ... […]
- How I discovered white-nose syndrome had spread to Gros Morne on August 31, 2018 at 3:42 am
I'd never seen a bat before in the daytime until I came across one hanging off my inlaws' house in Rocky Harbour this past June. When it hadn't moved in four days, I knew something was wrong. Not only ... […]
via Google News and Bing News