"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

White-nose syndrome brought on by an infectious fungus is killing thousands and thousands of bats – here's how you can stop it

A dangerous fungus is spreading across North America with devastating results. In the past decade, between 5m and 7m bats have been exterminated within the US and Canada consequently of a fungal disease referred to as white-nose syndrome, which alters their behavior in potentially fatal ways. But Latest research It suggests there could also be hope for researchers attempting to fight the disease, after the invention that UV light appears to destroy the fungus's DNA.

White-nose syndrome is brought on by a fungus, which grows on bats' mouths (hence the name) and other hairy parts of the body, including wings, and Causes skin lesions. It is psychrophilic, meaning it thrives in cold temperatures between 4°C and 20°C. This means it affects bats during hibernation.

Itchy, painful lesions cause infected bats to repeatedly awaken from hibernation, causing them to develop into confused and exposed. Very unusual behavior, resembling flying outside in broad daylight in near-freezing temperatures. Cold, lack of food and weird activity cause bats to deplete winter fat reserves and die from starvation, dehydration or freezing. As a result, the disease can kill in the center 90% and 100% of bats in infected hibernating colonies.

More than half of the 47 bat species within the United States and Canada depend on hibernation for survival. Nine species of them (including two endangered and one threatened) already show symptoms of white-nose syndrome. An additional six species (including one endangered) have also been found that don't yet show symptoms. The little brown bat (), once probably the most common bat in North America, is now predicted to be encountered. Territorial extinction.

Bats are generally long-lived and produce just one pup per 12 months, so affected species are unlikely to get better quickly. Not only is that this bad for biodiversity, it will possibly even have a serious economic impact on humans. In temperate regions, bats eat as much as 600 insects an evening and due to this fact provide a very important pest control service for North American farmers, effectively valued. 3.7 billion USD annually.

How did this bat astronomy come about?

Probably co-existed with bats in Eurasia. Millions of years. As a result, these bats have developed defenses against the fungus. So on this a part of the world, despite occasional mild outbreaks of white-nose syndrome, the disease Does not significantly affect entire groups of bats.. But when introduced to previously exposed American bats, the results were devastating.

White-nose syndrome was discovered in North America. In 2006. We know that the fungus was probably spread by human activity since the fungus is native to North America. Almost genetically identical For some specimens present in Europe. In addition, bats don't migrate between two continents, and a few distances between contaminated caves within the Americas exceed the flight range of infected bats. On top of that, the primary reports of white-nose syndrome got here from a A popular tourist cave near Albany, New York. The fungus is due to this fact prone to spread through the contaminated clothing and cave equipment of tourists visiting affected areas.

Testing for white nose syndrome.

Since then, white-nose syndrome has develop into one of the crucial serious wildlife diseases ever recorded. Yet there may literally be light at the top of the tunnel. Oh US Forest Service research team have discovered that it is very sensitive to ultraviolet light, especially UV-C light that kills germs but doesn't cause skin cancer. They found that moderate doses of UV-C light killed greater than 99 percent of the fungus, and that even lower doses killed 85 percent.

The effect is so powerful because UV light destroys the DNA of the fungus, and vice versa Related fungi, cannot repair the damage. Further tests are being carried out to envision whether UV light itself causes any harm to bats. But the very fact is that UV-C light has already been utilized in treatment. Other fungal infections The discovery in mammals has very promising implications.

Managing wildlife diseases could be difficult and expensive. Think how difficult it could be to use fungicide skin cream to 1000's of bats hanging from the highest of a cave. But shining a hand-held UV-C light source on them could be much easier. The research could due to this fact have far-reaching implications for the conservation of North American bats.