Pathogens & Microbes

By NABCANABCA, on 17 Mar 2017 06:11

Threat Description

The impact of pathogens and microbes on foraging and roosting habitats, as well as the impact of pathogens on bats directly. Potential impacts include the impact of White-Nose Syndrome on hibernating bats, the loss of forested habitat due to Dutch Elm disease, chestnut blight, and other fungal agents and the impact of rabies and other lyssa viruses on bats.

Perceived Importance of this Threat

The apparent importance of this threat [add]


Mitigation Measures

White-nose Syndrome
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a highly infections disease among North American hibernating bats caused by the psychrofilic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (previously known as Geomyces destructans). The fungus and disease were first documented in a cave near Albany, New York in the winter of 2006-2007 and rapidly spread across the eastern United States and Canada and have spread as far south as Mississippi and as far west as Washington State. To date, WNS has been confirmed in 10 species of hibernating bats, and the fungus has been found on six additional species. It is estimated to have killed over 6.7 million bats since it was first discovered. As a result, northern myotis is federally listed as threatened in the US, little brown myotis, northern myotis, and tri-colored bat are federally listed as endangered in Canada, with additional listings in multiple states and provinces. See the North American Bat Table of WNS and Protection Status. The fungus in North America appears to be of a single clonal strain, but P. destructans found in underground habitats across Europe and Asia appears to have much greater genetic diversity, suggesting it is native on the continent of Eurasia and was subsequently introduced to North America. European bats do not appear to be affected by the fungus to the same extent as North American bats, lacking severe skin lesions in individual bats and mass mortality in hibernating populations of bats (Puechmaille et al. 2011).

The United States and Canada respond to the threat of WNS through national coordination programs. Inter-agency national steering committees oversee the activities of multiple WNS working groups that are working towards a common goal: mitigating the threat of WNS by minimizing its impact on bat species that are affected. US working groups include: communications, data and technical information management, diagnostics, disease management, etiology and epidemiological research, disease surveillance, and conservation and recovery. Canadian working groups include: communication and outreach, data management, surveillance and diagnostics, mitigation and recovery, and population monitoring. The US and Canadian national response plans, as well as other federal and state response plans can be found here. To help minimize the human facilitated spread of P. destructans, decontamination protocols for entering underground habitat were developed (United States & Canada English and French.

Non-WNS References
Zoonotic Viruses and Conservation of Bats (Schneeberger K., Voigt C.C. 2016. Zoonotic Viruses and Conservation of Bats. In: Voigt C., Kingston T. (eds) Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World. Springer, Cham)

Challenges/Barriers to Addressing this Threat

P. destructans spreads rapidly from bat to bat and there is a great risk for microscopic fungal spores being spread by people entering underground habitat. While the fungus P. destructans is not very resilient outside of its ideal habitat, cold and humid underground sites, it is extremely hard to eradicate due to its sites of occupancy being hard to locate and access. Many research laboratories are studying methods and substances to kill P. destructans but applying such methods to infected bats or their contaminated hibernation environments proves to be extremely difficult because of bats elusive nature and complicated ecology. In addition to ecological challenges, there may be regulatory limitations to treating wildlife. The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative released a report on the regulatory considerations for control of wildlife diseases, specifically treating bats against WNS. Similarly, the USDA is working on a manuscript addressing the structure of federal regulatory authorities over treatment products.

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