Quirks and Quarks

Fighting Bat Fungus with Bacteria

White nose fungus is devastating bat populations but a bacteria may be useful for controlling it

A devastating bat disease may be treated with bacteria

Bat infected with white fungus (Joseph Hoyt)
White nose syndrome has been devastating bat populations in Eastern North America for several years now - often killing 90% or more of bats in the areas it invades. Research has revealed that the disease is caused by a fungal infection that infects the bats during their winter hibernation, causing them to rouse, burn energy, and eventually exhaust the resources they need to survive the winter.

Now, a team including Joseph Hoyt, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, think they may have discovered a way to fight the fungus.

By studying bats that resist the fungus, they found a bacteria that produces a chemical that stops the fungus in its tracks. They think that by culturing and spraying this bacteria in caves where bats are hibernating, they might be able to protect the wild populations that remain.

Related Links

Paper in PLOS One
- UCSC release
CBC News story
Discovery News story