In caves across the country a fungus has festering within bats causing the population to decrease tremendously, yet few things are being done to stop this. As researchers discovered “The disease, known as white-nose syndrome, recently was found in north-central Illinois, and previously has been detected in Iowa. A Wisconsin natural resources official said it is only a matter of time until it reaches the state (“Deadly Bat Disease…” par. 1). Since this has been discovered it has inflicted damage upon the agricultural industry causing loss of income when their crops die.
Even with all the devastation to the farms little is being done to find a cure with lack of funding, but some solutions have been found. White nose syndrome is a constant spreading problem in the United States killing off millions of bats and with further research needed to find a cure there is still hope for the bats with few successful experiments. White Nose Syndrome is a growing problem in the United States since it was discovered. An article on Wisconsin Bat Program’s website defines White Nose Syndrome as: In 2007, a fungus was discovered growing on hibernating bats in a cave in New York.
The fungus, later named Pseudogymnoascus destructans, was found to cause the disease white-nose syndrome (WNS). The fungus grows best in the cool conditions of caves and mines, and WNS affects bats as they hibernate. WNS can cause mortality rates of up to 95% in infected sites. Cause of mortality is still unknown, but the disease appears to cause the bats to wake prematurely out of torpor and burn crucial fat reserves. (“White Nose Syndrome” par. 1) Not much is known about how to stop this disease and scientists are having trouble finding ways to prevent it from spreading.
While studying the bats the researchers must be careful because White Nose Syndrome is contagious to humans in some cases, but it does not have the same effects as it has on bats. As Craig Willis states: Although the “white nose” around the muzzle gave a name to the condition, the disease actually seems to kill by damaging the wings. Bat wings are unusual; rich in blood vessels and only a few cells thick, they exchange water, oxygen and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere, much like the lungs. “Bats don’t just use their wings to fly around,” says Craig Willis, associate professor of biology at the University of Winnipeg, Canada.
The fungus injures wing tissue, and the bats “lose fluid through the lesions, like a victim of severe burns” (Qtd. in White par. 19) This is why it is so hard to treat since each case is different and it is prevalent is numerous species of bats. Another article states, ”Pd invades the nose, mouth and wings of bats during hibernation, when bats’ immune systems are largely shut down. Research indicates that the fungus may lead to dehydration, causing them to wake more frequently and burn precious fat reserves. This leads to starvation” (“Success in Saving Bats” par. 3).
This fungus has spread across the country and has many people worried about the bats and how it will be stopped. Some reports have noted, “Current estimates of bat population declines in the northeastern US since the emergence of WNS are approximately 80%” (“White Nose Syndrome” par. 4). Millions of bats have been affected by this and is evident when studying them in their natural habitats as J. Paul White stated, “Uncountable bugs smack our faces as we paddle south toward the Illinois border, and we can’t know which insects the bats are eating. But bats, the only true flying mammal, need to score consistently” (par. 3).
The effect of this is clearly seen on farms in the eastern states. The White Nose Syndrome is causing many problems in the agricultural world as the fungus messes with bat’s echolocation, J. Paul White explains how a little brown bats are the most common species in Wisconsin and need to eat 600 to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour to get enough energy to sustain flight through the night. Because their echolocation is almost nonexistent they cannot get the proper food they need causing them to starve.
Without them eating all the bugs it has hurt the farmers in those areas (par. 3). Sources say, “Bats are important consumers for agricultural, forestry and human pest insects. It is estimated that bats in Wisconsin save farmers up to $658 million every year in the form of pest control services” (“White-Nose Syndrome” par. 2). Without the bats it is causing major crop damage from insects making farmers pay more money for pest control with a higher risk of damaging fields of crops. Overall this is all creating a bigger deficit for those in the agricultural field as White Nose Syndrome continues to spread from east to west.
This a major reason why a push is needed to cure the fungus so farmers do not lose as many crops and money. Lack of funding has slowed the finding of the cure however some organizations are devoted to helping the bats. As a press release read, “Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are pleased to award $100,000 in funding to support critical research in the fight against White-nose Syndrome (WNS)” (“$100,000 Awarded” par. 1). The Nature Conservancy is one of few non-federal organizations helping to find a cure for White Nose Syndrome.
In an article that was released it announced, “The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made funds available to support research and communications needs outlined in the White-Nose Syndrome National Plan” (“Small Grants” par. 1). Even with the small amount of funds for research there have been steps made toward the cure; however more funds are needed to make the most of the discoveries found in order to find a cure. White Nose Syndrome needs to be stopped otherwise many bats species may become endangered since several are already threatened.
However there is hope in small cases where few bats were cured and the results look promising, says Sybill Amelon: The treatment is based on a bacterium that inhibits fungal growth, and was originally studied to see if it could slow the ripening of fruits and vegetables. Researchers are in their second year of trials with little brown bats and Northern long-eared bats…. Amelon and her team released about 15 treated bats back into the wild on May 19. The treatment helps all but the most heavily infected bats (Qtd. in Lee par. 2)
This was a rare case in which bats were saved but this treatment is big jump from what they previously knew about the fungus. From this others have made bounds to expand on this new found research: “I thought if Rhodococcus can prevent molds from growing on bananas, it may be able to stop a mold growing on a bat,” says Cornelison. The new treatment could be deployed in an entire cave of hibernating bats without having to handle them or leave chemicals in their environment. But Cornelison and colleagues haven’t quite figured out how they could deliver the treatment. (Lee par. 8)
Others have noted “If they’re treated early enough, the bacteria can kill off the fungus before it gains a foothold in the animal. But even bats already showing signs of white-nose syndrome show lower levels of the fungus in their wings after being treated”(Lee par. 4). This is the biggest lead scientists have on curing the deadly fungus known as White Nose Syndrome with advancements being made regularly, in the next couple of years a cure may be available to stop the endangerment of bats. With the few successes it has saved some, yet millions more need saving and the cure may be on the way to save them.