White-nose syndrome in Washington Bat has probable origin in eastern USA
5 August 2016
According to a study published in the journal mSphere on August 3 (Lorch et al 2016), the bat-killing white-nose fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans, “PD”) that was recently detected for the first time in western North America is genetically similar to fungal strains found in the eastern United States and probably did not originate in Eurasia. This fungus causes white-nose syndrome (WNS) and was recently found in a Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) near North Bend, Washington, USA. A Eurasian connection was suspected at first because North Bend is located near an international port, the scientists studied DNA from the Washington fungus to determine if it had roots abroad.
The occurrence of WNS in the western U.S. is especially troubling since bats not only have an ecological role in native habitats but help control insects in and around residential communities and provide an economic value in the billions of dollars to U. S. agriculture and forestry practices. “The severity and potential ecosystem-level effects of WNS in North America make it one of the most serious wildlife diseases ever recorded,” said Daniel Lindner, a research plant pathologist with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station (NRS) and a co-author on the study. Scientists at the sequenced DNA from multiple strains of PD, including the fungus cultured from the North Bend bat, to determine that it most closely matched fungal strains from eastern North America. Spread of WNS is not well-enough known to determine if the fungus reached Washington from the east by bat movements or if it was somehow transported by humans. At this time, WNS is not known to pose a threat to humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.
Lorch, J.M., J. M. Palmer, D.L. Lindner, A.E. Ballmann, K.G. George, K. Griffin, S. Knowles, J.R. Huckabee, K.H. Haman, C.D. Anderson, P.A. Becker, J.B. Buchanan, J.T. Foster, D.S. Blehert. 2016 First Detection of Bat White-Nose Syndrome in Western North America. mSphere Aug 2016, 1 (4) e00148-16; DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00148-16