General

Volume 35, Issue 3, 2016

Fighting fungus


0046736 Little brown myotis with WNS Credit Michael Schirmacher Bat Conservation International
Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) with White-nose
Syndrome
Photo: Michael Schirmacher

For the third year, BCI and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy are pleased to award $100,000 in funding to support critical research in the fight against White-nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats to date and is the primary threat to North America’s hibernating bats.

“We need to have many different tools in our tool box,” says BCI Imperiled Species Director Katie Gillies. “With the recent jump of WNS to Washington state, more than 1,300 miles from the nearest confirmation of the disease in the east, it is important now more than ever to have a range of tools in our arsenal against the fungus.”

The three newly funded projects take very different approaches to managing the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), that causes WNS. The first project, proposed by Dr. Jeff Foster at New Hampshire University, seeks to reduce fungal load in infected human-made bat hibernation sites (such as mines) by using an environmental cleaning agent, chlorine dioxide. This compound is already widely used to sanitize fruits, eggs and drinking water. By reducing the amount of Pd in infected mines, this research aims to decrease the number of bats developing WNS in areas where the fungus is already present. The second project, proposed by Dr. Maarten Vonhoff at Western Michigan University, will field test the efficacy of using chitosan—a natural biopolymer—to treat bats in the wild and increase the survival of bats exposed to Pd. The final project, proposed by Dr. Craig Willis at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, will test the safety and efficacy of two anti-microbial and enzyme inhibitor treatments for WNS. If these tests are successful, these treatments would provide new tools to help bats survive exposure to the deadly fungus.

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