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Environmental transmission of Pseudogymnoascus destructans to hibernating little brown bats

March 21, 2023

Pathogens with persistent environmental stages can have devastating effects on wildlife communities. White-nose syndrome (WNS), caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has caused widespread declines in bat populations of North America. In 2009, during the early stages of the WNS investigation and before molecular techniques had been developed to readily detect P. destructans in environmental samples, we initiated this study to assess whether P. destructans can persist in the hibernaculum environment in the absence of its conclusive bat host and cause infections in naive bats. We transferred little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) from an unaffected winter colony in northwest Wisconsin to two P. destructans contaminated hibernacula in Vermont where native bats had been excluded. Infection with P. destructans was apparent on some bats within 8 weeks following the introduction of unexposed bats to these environments, and mortality from WNS was confirmed by histopathology at both sites 14 weeks following introduction. These results indicate that environmental exposure to P. destructans is sufficient to cause the infection and mortality associated with WNS in naive bats, which increases the probability of winter colony extirpation and complicates conservation efforts.

Publication Year 2023
Title Environmental transmission of Pseudogymnoascus destructans to hibernating little brown bats
DOI 10.1038/s41598-023-31515-w
Authors Alan C. Hicks, Scott Darling, Joel Flewelling, Ryan von Linden, Carol Meteyer, Dave Redell, J. Paul White, Jennifer A. Redell, Ryan Smith, David S. Blehert, Noelle L. Rayman-Metcalf, Joseph R. Hoyt, Joseph C. Okoniewski, Kate E. Langwig
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature
Index ID 70222357
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center