Bat killing WNS fungus confirmed in Arkansas

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A fungus that leads to a deadly disease that has killed almost seven million bats in the US is continuing its spread westwards, results have shown.


 

Officials said the disease had been confirmed in Arkansas after samples tested positive for the fungus known to cause white-nose syndrome (WNS).

To date, there is no known vaccine or antidote against the disease.

WNS was first detected in New York State in 2006 and has since spread to 22 states and five Canadian provinces.

The latest positive results came from swab samples taken from hibernating bats in two cave in Arkansas.

The testing was part of a national study, funded by the US National Science Foundation, being carried out by researchers from the University of California Santa Cruz and North Arizona University.

"These are pretty far west occurrences," explained Ann Froschauer, WNS spokeswoman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

"We do have one potential site further west in western Oklahoma but these latest cases are the most western confirmed cases to date."

 

Early warning

She told BBC News that the positive results in Arkansas, taken from two caves, only indicated the presence of the fungus, Geomyces destructans, that is known to cause white-nose syndrome but there was no sign of the disease itself in the caves' bat population.

"As we have got better at the science side of things, we have been able to develop more sensitive [tests] that can detect the fungus in the environment in the absence of sick bats," Ms Froschauer said.

"We have seen that there seems to be some sort of timeline from when the fungus arrives in an area and when we start seeing the disease start manifesting itself in the bat population."

Officials hope data gathered by studies this could help improve their WNS management plans and, ultimately, provide an insight on how it would be possible to disrupt the disease cycle.

Biosecurity measures, such as closing caves to the public and offering decontamination guidance to cavers, are the only method currently available to slow the spread of the disease.

To date, no vaccine exists that can be used to protect uninfected bat populations.

"It is something that we are interested in and there are scientists that are interested in the potential of developing a vaccine," Ms Froschauer observed.

"But this will have to be something completely novel. Mammals do not respond to fungal infections in the same way that they respond to bacteria or viruses.

"Our bodies do not develop antibodies in the same way as it does to bacteria or viruses, so some creative thinking is going to be required."

"If we got to the stage where we had a vaccine then we would have to move on to the challenge of how would we administer it to a small, flying mammal."

Written By: By Mark Kinver
continue to source article at bbc.co.uk

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  1. Surely there is some connection with plagues affecting frogs, bats and bees happening all at once. I would have though climate change warming would be unfriendly to funguses. Are we doing something that is spreading the funguses?

    Are pesticides making animals weaker at resisting funguses?

    • In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

      Bats. Another pollinator. Another insect control organism.

      Speaking of bats pollinating, here is a beautiful but short clip about pollinators. The bats enter at around the 2 minute mark.

        • In reply to #9 by quarecuss:

          In reply to #4 by DHudson:

          In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

          Bats. Another pollinator. Another insect control organism.

          Speaking of bats pollinating, here is a beautiful but short clip about pollinators. The bats enter at around the 2 minute mark.

          Great video but did you see the fungi video by Sch…

          Very nice. I like his outlook on nature. :-)

    • In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

      Bats. Another pollinator. Another insect control organism.

      Are preparations being made if this comes to worse?

      LOL. I don’t know, this is the first I’ve heard of this but I would be surprised to find anyone is planning to deal with this, remember this is the land that still thinks global warming is some kind of UN conspiracy, not big on doing things that might interfere with business just because of pesky things like scientific evidence.

    • In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

      Are preparations being made if this comes to worse?

      In the interim, these folk are on the case.


      The fungus is believed to have entered the u.s. via humans from European, or possibly Asian bats. Those indigenous species seem to be much more immune, including lower mortality rates. Poor u.s. bats got blind-sided by this :(

      • In reply to #10 by bluebird:

        In reply to #3 by Neodarwinian:

        Are preparations being made if this comes to worse?

        In the interim, these folk are on the case.

        The fungus is believed to have entered the u.s. via humans from European, or possibly Asian bats. Those indigenous species seem to be much more immune, including lowe…

        I see. Very good then.

    • In reply to #6 by Agrajag:

      Is the fungus the primary pathogen, or is it an “indicator” of another disease process (lookin’ at YOU, viruses). Just wondering.

      Steve

      An opportunistic fungal infection?

  2. Fungi have been attacking other living organisms like this for longer than we can count back. Remember a few years ago when various pond amphibians were being wiped out by a chytrid? Dutch elm disease? Athlete’s foot has affected humans from time immemorial, and closely related fungal species cause cattle ringowrm all over the world. Many (most?) cats carry another athlete’s foot relative called Microsporum canis and sometimes suffer from obvious ringworm lesions. Some decades ago there were big problems with fungi attacking fish. Groping for explanations like climate change and pesticides is unhelpful, to put it politely. The good news is that most organisms seem to have better inherent defences against fungi than against other microbes (particularly bacteria and viruses). The “plagues” of fungal infection arise unpredictably and we seldom ever discover why a particular fungus attacks a particular plant or animal host before their work is done and they’re gone.

    • In reply to #8 by FrankMill:

      unhelpful

      That’s true in this case, though not in that of the bees. There are peer reviewed papers confirming the effect of fungicides on bee vulnerability to mites, and that it is only a partial explanation. It could be a random event of undeterminable cause, but other possible explanations should be looked at, not ruled out because reasons. That would seem like the opposite of science.

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