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Skin fungal assemblages of bats vary based on susceptibility to white-nose syndrome

November 4, 2020

Microbial skin assemblages, including fungal communities, can influence host resistance to infectious diseases. The diversity-invasibility hypothesis predicts that high-diversity communities are less easily invaded than species-poor communities, and thus diverse microbial communities may prevent pathogens from colonizing a host. To explore the hypothesis that host fungal communities mediate resistance to infection by fungal pathogens, we investigated characteristics of bat skin fungal communities as they relate to susceptibility to the emerging disease white-nose syndrome (WNS). Using a culture-based approach, we compared skin fungal assemblage characteristics of 10 bat species that differ in susceptibility to WNS across 10 eastern U.S. states. The fungal assemblages on WNS-susceptible bat species had significantly lower alpha diversity and abundance compared to WNS-resistant species. Overall fungal assemblage structure did not vary based on WNS-susceptibility, but several yeast species were differentially abundant on WNS-resistant bat species. One yeast species inhibited Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), the causative agent on WNS, in vitro under certain conditions, suggesting a possible role in host protection. Further exploration of interactions between Pd and constituents of skin fungal assemblages may prove useful for predicting susceptibility of bat populations to WNS and for developing effective mitigation strategies.

Publication Year 2021
Title Skin fungal assemblages of bats vary based on susceptibility to white-nose syndrome
DOI 10.1038/s41396-020-00821-w
Authors Karen J Vanderwolf, Lewis Campbell, Tony L. Goldberg, David S. Blehert, Jeffrey M. Lorch
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title ISME Journal
Index ID 70216249
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center