Deadly Fungus Affecting Hibernating Bats Could Spread During Summer

August 1, 2017
Contact: Marisa Lubeck, 303-526-6694, mlubeck@usgs.gov
Gail Moede Rogall, 608-270-2438, gmrogall@usgs.gov

The cold-loving fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd) that causes white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of North American bats during hibernation, could also spread in summer months. Bats and humans visiting contaminated caves and mines can inadvertently contribute to the spread of the fungus, according to a recently published study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS scientists tested samples collected from bats, the environment and equipment at eight bat hibernation sites in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. They found that bats occupying such sites in summer can harbor the Pd fungus on their skin, and that Pd is more readily detectable in their guano, or feces.

The scientists also detected Pd on clothing and equipment taken inside and near caves and mines used by bats. These detections demonstrate that gear exposed to fungal-infected environments is a potential mechanism for Pd spread, even during summertime when the prevalence of WNS is low. WNS is not known to affect humans, pets, livestock or other wildlife.

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