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
- PSU bat research receives funding on December 8, 2018 at 9:09 pm
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State research aimed at combating white-nose syndrome in bats has received funding from the Bats for the Future Fund, a public-private partnership between the National Fish and ... […]
- Mammoth Cave Scientists Studying White-Nose Syndrome on December 8, 2018 at 8:49 am
MAMMOTH CAVE NATIONAL PARK, Ky. (AP) — Scientists at Mammoth Cave National Park are taking part in two studies regarding white-nose syndrome, or WNS. WNS is caused by a fungus growing on bats' muzzles ... […]
- White-nose syndrome in bat populations on December 4, 2018 at 6:40 am
This graph shows estimated cumulative probabilities of extinction for the little brown bat population in the northeastern United States. These probabilities were projected for five annual rates of pop... […]
- "Science On Tap" Speaker Talks Bats And White Nose Syndrome on December 3, 2018 at 1:25 am
The sharp decline of the populations of bats is one topic of the next Science on Tap presentation in Minocqua. Brian Heeringa is the wildlife biologist for the Washburn Ranger District of the Chequame... […]
- Study reveals importance of ‘cryptic connections’ in disease transmission on November 26, 2018 at 5:23 am
Each site had as many as four species of bats using it. At the start of the study, the pathogen that causes white-nose syndrome had not yet reached these populations. The researchers first surveyed th... […]
- White-nose syndrome research shows how ‘cryptic’ connections in disease transmission influence epidemics on November 25, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Diseases have repeatedly spilled over from wildlife to humans, causing local to global epidemics, such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, SARS, and Nipah. A new study by researchers of disease transmission in bats h... […]
- What The Call Of A Bat May Reveal About This Devastated Population on November 24, 2018 at 9:33 am
The fungal disease white-nose syndrome has killed off millions of bats across America. Since it was first identified in 2006, it’s appeared on bats in more than 30 states, including all of New England ... […]
- How to Vaccinate a Wild Bat on November 22, 2018 at 4:08 am
It’s also an important one: many bat populations are now endangered by white-nose syndrome, a serious fungal disease that invades the skin of bats. The infection causes them to rouse frequently during ... […]
- Researchers discover how 'cryptic' connections in disease transmission influence epidemics on November 19, 2018 at 8:31 am
By dusting bats with a fluorescent powder that glows under ultraviolet light, Virginia Tech researchers Joseph Hoyt and Kate Langwig were able to trace the dynamics of disease transmission in bat spec... […]
- OUTDOORS: PGC board takes first of 2 votes to protect Pa. bats on November 17, 2018 at 9:12 pm
White-nose syndrome put bats in danger a dozen years ago, now listing some of these bats as endangered in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Game Commission could take a small step toward saving them fr... […]
via Google News and Bing News