What is White-nose Syndrome?

White-nose syndrome is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in at least 29 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats. The fungus thrives in cold and humid conditions characteristic of caves and mines used by bats. 

Scientists believe that White-nose Syndrome is transmitted primarily from bat to bat. There is a strong possibility that it may also be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying the fungus from cave to cave on their clothing and gear.

Bats affected with White-nose Syndrome don't always have obvious fungal growth, but they might behave strangely inside and outside of the cave where they hibernate during the winter.

Related Content

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Hibernating little brown bat
July 5, 2017

Hot new imagery from temperature-sensing cameras suggests that bats who warm up from hibernation together throughout the winter may be better at surviving white nose syndrome, a disease caused by a cold-loving fungus ravaging insect-eating bat populations in the United States and Canada.

Southeastern myotis with Pd - thumb
June 1, 2017

Biologists have confirmed white-nose syndrome in the southeastern bat, or Myotis austroriparius, for the first time. The species joins eight other hibernating bat species in North America that are afflicted with the deadly bat fungal disease.

Bat hanging from a cave ceiling
March 31, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. – White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been confirmed in a little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) found near North Bend – the first recorded occurrence of this devastating bat disease in western North America. The presence of this disease was verified by the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center

collage of scientists conducting science related to each mission are
January 5, 2015

For the first time, scientists have developed a detailed explanation of how white-nose syndrome (WNS) is killing millions of bats in North America, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin. The scientists created a model for how the disease progresses from initial infection to death in bats during hibernation.

USGS logo
May 29, 2014

Scientists working to understand the devastating bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) now have a new, non-lethal tool to identify bats with WNS lesions —ultraviolet, or UV, light.

USGS logo
November 19, 2012

Bats recovering from white-nose syndrome show evidence of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), according to a hypothesis proposed by the U.S. Geological Survey and collaborators at National Institutes of Health. This condition was first described in HIV-AIDS patients and, if proven in bats surviving WNS, would be the first natural occurrence of IRIS ever observed.

USGS logo
May 11, 2012

National Wildlife Health Center Collaborates with EcoHealth Alliance
 

USGS logo
December 15, 2010

Madison, Wisconsin—Damage to bat wings from the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome (WNS) may cause catastrophic imbalance in life-support processes, according to newly published research.

USGS logo
October 30, 2008

A previously undescribed, cold-loving fungus has been linked to white-nose syndrome, a condition associated with the deaths of over 100,000 hibernating bats in the northeastern United States. The findings are published in this week's issue of Science.

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Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome
March 2, 2017

Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome

A bat with White-nose syndrome hanging in a cave. Photo by USFWS.
October 31, 2016

A bat with White-nose syndrome hanging in a cave. Photo by USFWS.

Image: UV Light Showing White-Nose Syndrome in Bat's Wing
March 15, 2016

Long-wave ultraviolet (UV) and white-light illumination of lesions associated with white-nose syndrome.  Wing from dead eastern pipestrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus) lit from above with hand-held 51 LED 385-nm UV flashlight shows points of orange–yellow fluorescence.

Image: White-Nose Syndrome Lesions Under UV Light
March 15, 2016

Long-wave ultraviolet (UV) and white-light illumination of lesions associated with white-nose syndrome.  Points of orange–yellow fluorescence (arrows) detected on a roosting Indiana myotis (Myotis sodalis) following surface illumination with a field-portable 9-watt 368-nm fluorescent UV light (photo by Tina Cheng with permission).

Image: Bat with White-nose Syndrome
March 14, 2016

Hibernating little brown bat with white muzzle typical of White-nose syndrome.

video thumbnail: Under Siege: Battling Flying Carp and Giant Pythons and How Science Can Help
July 3, 2012

Over the last several decades, non-native species have continued to invade sensitive ecosystems in the United States. Two high-profile species, Asian carp in the Midwest and Burmese pythons in the Everglades, are the focus of much attention by decision makers, the public and the media. Sharon Gross, Robert Reed and Cynthia Kolar discuss issues related to invasive species and explain innovative methods used to help detect and control these invaders.

video thumbnail: Bat White-nose Syndrome: There is a New Fungus Among Us By Dr. David Blehert
March 10, 2012

Since first discovered in 2007 in New York, white-nose syndrome has spread to 16 states, including Virginia and Maryland, and four Canadian provinces. The disease is estimated to have killed over five million hibernating bats. An outbreak of infectious disease among bats on the order of white-nose syndrome is without precedent, and although insect-feeding wild bats may lack the easily defined monetary value of domestic animals, a recent analysis showed that they provide natural pest control services to American farmers valued at approximately $23 billion per year. Dr. David Blehert discusses this emergent wildlife disease and the profound impacts white-nose syndrome may have in the 21st century.

December 14, 2010

Damage to bat wings from the fungus associated with white-nose syndrome (WNS) may cause catastrophic imbalance in life-support processes, and this imbalance may be to blame for the more than 1 million deaths of bats due to WNS thus far. Paul Cryan, USGS bat ecologist at the Fort Collins Science Center, discusses this newly published USGS research.

Image: Brown Bat Necropsy
March 7, 2008

USGS pathologist Nancy Thomas conducting necropsy on little brown bat at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (Allison Klein, USGS).

Image: Hibernating Bats with White-nose Syndrome
March 1, 2008

Bats showing signs of infections with Geomyces destructans, the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome.