A bat expert says a syndrome that has killed hundreds of thousands of bats in the northeastern United States may be coming to Canada.

Hugh Broders of Saint Mary's University in Halifax expects white-nose syndrome will land in the Atlantic region in a matter of years, but says Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island might not be hit as hard because of their separation from the mainland.

Broders says the spread will depend on the migratory patterns of cave- and mine-dwelling bats, something that is not altogether known at this point.

White-nose syndrome was first confirmed in Albany, N.Y., in the winter of 2006 and has since spread across nine states in the northeast.

No cases have been confirmed in Canada but a report from 2008 placed it as close as 50 kilometres from the Ontario border.

Researchers don't know how the syndrome kills bats but suspect that the characteristic white fungus may play a role.

Bats play an important role in our ecosystem, economy and health by eating insects that may otherwise eat crops and spread infectious disease.