by Editor on August 20, 2015

A little brown bat objects to being handled by a researcher. Photo: USFWS

A little brown bat objects to being handled by a researcher. Photo: USFWS

Likely Cure Found For White Nose Syndrome

In the eastern U.S. and Canada, anyone who has regularly spent time outdoors during the past several years has probably noticed that once-plentiful bats have almost disappeared from our evening skies. This worrisome scarcity is due to the ravages of a fungal illness known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS), which to date has killed an estimated 6 million of the insectivorous flying mammals in the U.S. and Canada—up to 90 percent of the bat population in some areas. Conservationists have been concerned that WNS—which was inadvertently introduced to North America from Europe—might eventually push some bat species toward extinction.

But biologists are reporting that they may finally have a handle on the problem. In May, scientists in Missouri released 75 bats that had that been successfully treated for the deadly illness using a bacterium (Rhodococcus rhodochrous) found to inhibit the growth of the fugus that causes it. Further trials of the promising treatment are planned.

White Nose Syndrome attacks the animals’ noses, mouths, and wings, weakening them through dehydration and driving them outdoors in wintertime, when they need to be conserving energy through hibernation. The illness is highly contagious among bats, spreading rapidly through colonies and killing up to 100 percent of the individuals in some bat communities.

Following the recent bat release, Michael T. Rains, who directs the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory, said “While more research is needed before we know if our current discovery is an effective and environmentally safe treatment for White Nose Syndrome, we are very encouraged.”

Read the full press release from the Nature Conservancy.

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