Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bats may be developing resistance to killer fungus

There may be hope for bats threatened by a disease that has killed millions in the Northeast and is moving into the South and Midwest, reports Darryl Fears of The Washington Post. In Vermont, he writes, "Scientists who visited more than a dozen sites where the bats nest in the western part of the state found thriving colonies that appear to be resistant to white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by an aggressive fungus. Pennsylvania biologists are also monitoring about 2,000 bats that appear to be healthy in an abandoned coal mine in Luzerne County in the state’s northeast, The Associated Press reported." (Alan Hicks photo: bats with syndrome)

“It’s just a ray of hope that there are bats that have survived over three years of white-nose syndrome, and we want to know how they survived, or if they will continue to survive, and if this is enough bats to . . . recover a population,” Scott Darling, a biologist for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, told the Post. Bats are important to agriculture, as eaters of harmful insects and as pollinators.

Fears writes that the discovery "raised hopes that bats in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions where the disease is established have somehow developed an immunity" to the fungus that linked to the disease and turns bats' faces white, says a study published last week in the journal Nature. Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity in Richmond, Vt., cautioned, “I don’t want people to get the sense that this crisis is done,” Matteson said. “It’s good news in the sense that bats haven’t entirely fallen off the cliff yet. They’re still hanging on by a tiny little fingernail.” (Read more)

1 comment:

Ed Marksberry said...

Bats that suffer from this Geomyces destructans fungus are in the Northeastern part of the United States. Goemyces means cold loving, so this could be why it hasn’t spread further south. They have found bats in Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and France that have the same disease, but they seem to be immune from it, no mass decimated populations. It would be interesting to see what research has to say about this in the future and could lead to immunity research advances for other diseases as well. Just my opinion, but what do I know, I’m only a carpenter.