From: Northern Research Station - Forest Service
Published January 3, 2018 11:04 AM

Lethal fungus that causes white-nose syndrome may have an Achilles` heel, new study reveals

The fungus behind white-nose syndrome, a disease that has ravaged bat populations in North America, may have an Achilles' heel: UV light. White-nose syndrome has spread steadily for the past decade and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, known as P. destructans or Pd.

In the course of genomic analyses of P. destructans, a team of scientists from the U.S. Forest ServiceU.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of New Hampshire found that the fungus is highly sensitive to UV light. P. destructans can only infect bats during hibernation because it has a strict temperature growth range of about 39-68 degrees Fahrenheit. However, treating bats for the disease during hibernation is challenging, so any weakness of the fungus may be good news to managers trying to develop treatment strategies. 

In a study published on Jan. 2 in the journal Nature Communications titled “Extreme sensitivity to ultra-violet light in the fungal pathogen causing white-nose syndrome of bats,” the research team suggests that P. destructans is likely a true fungal pathogen of bats that evolved alongside bat species in Europe and Asia for millions of years, allowing Eurasian bats to develop defenses against it. In the course of comparing P. destructans to six closely related non-pathogenic fungi, researchers discovered that P. destructans is unable to repair DNA damage caused by UV light, which could lead to novel treatments for the disease. The study, which was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is available at: https://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/55557

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Image Credit: Daniel Lindner, USDA Forest Service

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