White-Nose Syndrome

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White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern across United States at an alarming rate.

Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 37 states and seven Canadian provinces (as of March 2021) have died from this devastating disease. Bat population declines are expected to have substantial impacts on the environment and agriculture. Bats eat insects that damage crops and spread disease. Consumption of insects by bats saves farmers billions of dollars in pest control services annually.

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats. Field signs of WNS can include excessive or unexplained mortality at a hibernaculum; visible white fungal growth on the muzzle or wings of live or freshly dead bats; abnormal daytime activity during winter months or movement toward hibernacula openings; and severe wing damage in bats that have recently emerged from hibernation. Infected bats experience a cascade of physiologic changes that result in weight loss, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and death. To determine conclusively if bats are affected by white-nose syndrome, scientists must examine a skin specimen to look for a characteristic microscopic pattern of skin erosion caused by P. destructans. Please see below for guidance on sample collection and submission for diagnostic services.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been a leading contributor to the interagency response to WNS since 2008 and continues to provide ongoing scientific support to these efforts by performing fundamental research on bat ecology, fungal biology, and WNS epidemiology and pathology.

More resources on white-nose syndrome:

White-nose syndrome surveillance training videos