Mystery Fungus Extremely Deadly to Bats

A fungal disease that is very lethal to bats was discovered in 2006. Since then, the mystery fungus has been given the name ‘white-nose syndrome’. Research has been ongoing for the past nine years, though a group of researchers at an institute in Rhode Island believe that they may be close to figuring out how the mystery fungus is killing so many bats.

The Effects of White-Nose Syndrome

This mystery fungus appears as a white substance on the noses and wings of bats for which it gains its name. The cold-resistant fungal infection penetrates the tissue of the nasal cavity, the mouth, and the wings of the bat. This makes the bat unable to stay hydrated as well as compromising a steady core body temperature. This makes the bats weak and very susceptible to death. Anywhere from 5 million to 6 million bats have been killed by the fungus in 28 states and Canada from the time it was discovered.

The Origins of This Mystery Fungus

According to Richard Bennett, a professor and the lead of the team at Brown University, “this is perhaps the biggest decline in wildlife from an infectious agent in the past century.” He believes that this has spread from Europe where bats have already developed an immunity from the fungus. However, being introduced into a new population of bats, it can and has thrived on the inability to resist it. It has spread all across North America, and continues to be a problem.

Actions Taken for the Bats

Bennett and his team are directing their attention on the secretion that the fungus creates. While they don’t have any of the infected bats in their lab, they do have the fungus which has been grown in a converted wine chiller.

The team has partnered with California University and sends samples of the fungi to Giselle Knudsen who then analyze the proteins in it. They theorize that the secretion is actually what is damaging the tissue and ultimately killing the bats. By performing tests and analyzing the data they find, Bennett’s team could create a cure for the mystery fungus which is their hopeful end-goal.

Though they know they can’t directly give drugs to the individual bats to cure them, Bennett is sure that someone will think of a creative way to get the cure to the bats — like an effective way to spray an entire cave of bats with the cure.


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