Collecting a bat skin biopsy for white-nose syndrome surveillance

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Detailed Description

This video demonstrates the proper procedure for collecting a skin biopsy from a bat when conducting white-nose syndrome surveillance. White-nose syndrome (WNS) ( is a highly fatal disease affecting multiple species of North American bats that is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. A skin biopsy may be collected from live bats with visible fungal growth or characteristic UV fluorescence when whole carcasses cannot be submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for evaluation. This procedure is intended to be performed by an authorized wildlife professional only. It may be unlawful to take wildlife without the proper permits and one should consult their state natural resources agency for further guidance. Bats may carry rabies and should never be directly handled without appropriate safety precautions. More information on white-nose syndrome surveillance is available from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (


Date Taken:

Length: 00:07:27

Location Taken: Madison, WI, US

Video Credits

Filming and narration by S. Grange. Technique demonstrated by A. Ballmann. Video editing by S. Grange and A. Ward. Audio description by A. Ward.


Only collect a wing biopsy from bats that show visible fungus or are UV positive if you are permitted to do so and are unable or unwilling to euthanize the bat and submit the whole carcass. If visible fungus is not present and wings are UV negative, do not collect wing biopsies for Pd surveillance. Also, always collect a skin swab from the bat before obtaining the biopsy.


Make sure the water is in the bottom of the tube by shaking and flicking the vial. Open the vial being careful not to touch the inside of cap with your gloves. Remove sterile swab from packaging without touching the applicator tip. Place the sterile swab into the sample vial to moisten.


Not all of the liquid may be absorbed into the tip, a small amount of water may remain at the bottom of the tube.


Hold the bat with one wing slightly abducted from the body to access the dorsal surface of the forearm. Collect the swab sample over the forearm area between the elbow and the wrist and then across the muzzle. Gently roll the swab three times over the skin surface so that all surfaces of the swab contact the skin.


Return the skin swab to the same vial and lower approximately half way into the vial. Bend the plastic shaft over the edge of the rim and press the screw cap over the top to prevent the swab from flipping out of the vial once it snaps off. Screw the lid onto the vial tightly and place the sample vial into the bag labeled samples.


Examine the extended wings under UVA light for evidence of pale orange fluorescence and identify and mark with sharpie one or more areas on the wing where a biopsy could be collected under white light.


Prior to taking a biopsy, extend the bats wing and examine with a back light to ensure that major blood vessels or other important anatomical structures are not present in the intended biopsy area.


You will need a piece of cardboard, a 3-millimeter biopsy punch, a swab to remove the biopsy from the punch, a vial and conical tube to put the biopsy into, and parafilm to seal them.


A 3-millimeter biopsy punch is recommended as the smallest diameter for histopathological examination for white-nose Syndrome lesions.


This procedure works best with two people. One person to manually restrain the bat and one person to take the biopsy. The biopsy tool is sharp, so always position the extended wing against a hard, flat, clean surface when using the tool.


Areas on the flight membrane that demonstrate more rapid healing rates are areas close to the body wall. Avoid taking biopsies at the distal areas of the wing or near edges, which can lead to wing tearing.


It is important to keep the biopsy tool perpendicular to the wing surface when pressing and twisting. Avoid rocking the tool side-to-side. This leads to incomplete cuts.


If bleeding occurs following the biopsy, apply direct pressure over the site for several minutes prior to release. Alternatively, you can apply a quick clotting powder.


If the skin biopsy remains behind on the cutting surface once the bat is lifted off, use the plastic shaft of a sterile swab to transfer the skin biopsy to a sample vial. The vial can either be an empty sterile vial or contain 1ml of 10% buffered neutral formalin.


If the skin biopsy becomes lodged in the end of the biopsy punch, while holding the punch over a sample vial, slide the plastic shaft of a narrow swab down the center of the punch biopsy handle, until the biopsy pushes out the bottom of the blade and drops the lodged material into the vial.


If the skin biopsy is incompletely cut and remains partially attached to the wing, reposition the bat wing on the cutting surface to clearly visualize where the skin tag remains attached to the wing and reapply the punch to cut the skin without creating a second hole.


If storing and shipping the biopsy in formalin, you must follow specific packaging and labeling instructions for hazardous substances.


Wrap the lid of the sample vial with formalin in parafilm to prevent leakage. Place the sample vial in a secondary container, a 15-milliliter conical tube with absorbent material, and wrap parafilm around the secondary container lid as well.