Recent research may help with future treatment of bats with white-nose syndrome

After several years of research to better understand white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease that has killed more than 5 million bats since it was discovered in 2007, scientists are beginning to see promising results that could eventually help treat and recover affected bat species.

On May 19 the U.S. Forest Service and partners released bats in Missouri that had WNS last fall but were treated during the past winter as part of a series of experiments the agency is conducting to identify potential treatments for the deadly bat disease.

This work complements other ongoing research into WNS treatment options. For example, in early April 2015 University of California-Santa Cruz researchers published the results of laboratory studies that showed how bacteria found naturally on some bats inhibited growth of the fungus that causes the disease.

"The results of this new research sound promising, and we are hopeful that it may eventually give us a safe and effective treatment to use in the field," said Jeremy Coleman, White-nose Syndrome National Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "As more potential treatments continue to be developed, we are optimistic that we are nearing a tipping point in our ability to combat WNS."

The research by the Forest Service and others builds on seven years of research to identify the fungus that causes the disease and is helping scientists understand how it works and spreads. The WNS National Response Plan is a framework for coordinating this work, and is being implemented by more than 100 Federal, State, and Tribal agencies, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations working to urgently address WNS.

Finding successful treatment and management tools is a top priority for the national response. To that end, the Fish and Wildlife Service is coordinating a workshop in July 2015 that will focus on developing a treatment strategy and options that are safe and effective for bats and the environment. Participating agencies include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the US Geological Survey, the US Forest Service, and National Park Service, as well as other partners.

Image(s):