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White-Nose Syndrome: Human Activity in the Emergence of an Extirpating Mycosis

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  • Authors: Hannah T. Reynolds1, Hazel A. Barton2
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325; 2: Department of Biology, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325; 3: University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
  • Source: microbiolspec December 2013 vol. 1 no. 2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012
  • Received 05 October 2012 Accepted 09 December 2012 Published 20 December 2013
  • Hazel A. Barton, bartonh@uakron.edu
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  • Abstract:

    In winter 2006, the bat population in Howe Cave, in central New York State, USA, contained a number of bats displaying an unusual white substance on their muzzles. The following year, numerous bats in four surrounding caves displayed unusual winter hibernation behavior, including day flying and entrance roosting. A number of bats were found dead and dying, and all demonstrated a white, powdery substance on their muzzles, ears, and wing membranes, which was later identified as the conidia of a previously undescribed fungal pathogen, . The growth of the conidia gave infected bats the appearance of having dunked their faces into powdered sugar. The disease was named white-nose syndrome and represents an emerging zoonotic mycosis, likely introduced through human activities, which has led to a precipitous decline in North American bat species.

  • Citation: Reynolds H, Barton H. 2013. White-Nose Syndrome: Human Activity in the Emergence of an Extirpating Mycosis. Microbiol Spectrum 1(2):OH-0008-2012. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012.

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2013-12-20
2017-09-23

Abstract:

In winter 2006, the bat population in Howe Cave, in central New York State, USA, contained a number of bats displaying an unusual white substance on their muzzles. The following year, numerous bats in four surrounding caves displayed unusual winter hibernation behavior, including day flying and entrance roosting. A number of bats were found dead and dying, and all demonstrated a white, powdery substance on their muzzles, ears, and wing membranes, which was later identified as the conidia of a previously undescribed fungal pathogen, . The growth of the conidia gave infected bats the appearance of having dunked their faces into powdered sugar. The disease was named white-nose syndrome and represents an emerging zoonotic mycosis, likely introduced through human activities, which has led to a precipitous decline in North American bat species.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

The pathology of WNS. (A) A little brown bat (M. lucifugus) displaying the characteristic white powder on the muzzle and wings from the production of G. destructans conidia. (B) Pathology of G. destructans on the wing membrane of M. lucifugus (bat tissues stain blue, while fungal material stains pink), demonstrating the characteristic devascularization and breakdown of connective tissues, including the characteristic cupping lesions (arrows). (C) Invasive pathology of G. destructans on the muzzle of M. lucifugus. Once colonization occurs, the invasion of hair follicles (arrow) and sweat glands is characteristic of WNS. Images B and C would both be considered WNS positive based on histology. Image A courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; B and C courtesy of Kevin Keel. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012.f1

Source: microbiolspec December 2013 vol. 1 no. 2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Incidence and spread of WNS. (A) The regional spread of infected hibernacula based on the winter observation of WNS-infected bats. The winter 2006–2007 data represent a single cave, with just a few infected individuals, while the winter 2011–2012 data represent hundreds of hibernacula and millions of infected bats. (B) The epidemic spread of WNS overlaid by the location of the Appalachian Mountains and significant bat migration routes in North America. Both maps are based on a map provided by Cal Butchkoski and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012.f2

Source: microbiolspec December 2013 vol. 1 no. 2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012
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FIGURE 3

Known and postulated mechanisms of G. destructans transmission and WNS establishment. Bat-to-bat transmission has been demonstrated in laboratory experiments and based on epidemiology. Cave-to-bat and bat-to-cave transmission has been shown anecdotally. Fungal spores can be picked up by human activities in caves, while the ability of humans to pick up spores and serve as vectors for G. destructans transmission remains speculative. Black arrows demonstrate known fungal transport, with the thickness of the arrow indicative of the known significance of transfer. Gray arrows indicate as yet unknown mechanisms. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012.f3

Source: microbiolspec December 2013 vol. 1 no. 2 doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.OH-0008-2012
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