6:00am

Thu October 27, 2011
Science

USGS Identifies White Nose Syndrome Culprit

A new article in the journal Nature identifies the fungus responsible for White Nose Syndrome, a disease that’s killed more than 1 million bats on the East Coast and is sweeping across the country.

The study by U.S. Geological Survey scientists and partners demonstrates the first direct link between the fungus geomyces destructans and bats that develop White Nose Syndrome. However, scientists still don’t yet understand how and why the fungus is deadly to bats.

David Blehert, a microbiologist with the USGS, said one possible explanation could be found in the damage the disorder causes to bats’ wings when they’re hibernating.

“Even though the disease is called White Nose Syndrome, the fungus also extensively colonizes the skin of a bat's wings, which comprises about eight times more skin than the rest of the skin [on] its body,” said Blehert during a conference call with reporters.

Blehert says destruction of a bat’s wing membrane could be disrupting critical physiological functioning and preventing flight.

Scientists have identified six species of bats that are affected by White Nose Syndrome. So far the disease has spread as far west as Oklahoma.

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