A team of researchers led by Professor Richard Bennett from Brown University are being paid to research a nasty fungus responsible for killing of millions of bats across the country.
The National Science Foundation has offered the team $500.000 to uncover how the scientific community can battle the white-nose syndrome, a disease named after the bits of white fungus that form on the bats’ noses, as well as their wings.
The disease has been spreading quickly and causing trouble for a while now. It was first discovered back in 2006, in New York State, and since then has killed roughly 5 to 6 million bats across 28 US states and Canada. The working theory is that the disease originated from Europe, but that bats are much more resilient to it over there.
Professor Bennett gave a statement informing that it’s obvious to the researchers that this is the most significant decline in wildlife that an infectious agent has caused this past century.
The fungus, known as “pseudogymnoascus destructans” (Pd) is a cold loving agent which penetrates the tissue of the bat’s mouth, nose and wings. As a result the flying mammal is rendered unable to stay hydrated and to maintain its body temperature.
Professor Bennett had admitted that his expertise is in human fungal infections, but also added that most pathogenic fungi cause disease by secreting and informed that he and his colleagues are actively investigating which are the potential factors that might allow the fungus to cause disease in a bat.
The lead researcher and his colleagues from Brown University have been working on the project with other experts from University of California. One invaluable member turned out to be Giselle Knudsen, an adjunct professor who identified which proteins were being secreted by the deadly fungi.
The team of researchers does hope to eventually find a way to treat bats, however professor Knudsen did mention that giving them drugs most likely won’t be the solution. He added that the situation is really bad right now and that something needs to be done. One options he’s though of is spraying bat caves with an antifungal agent.
The team also informed that the current situation for northern long-eared bats is extremely dire and for little brown bats is very dire.
The next step for them is to collect and study skin tissue from the bats, as they have only been working with fungi in the lab so far.
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