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Individual Highlight

Nonlethal method of defining white-nose syndrome infection proves effective

Photo of NRS-2017-93NRS-2017-93Snapshot : White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated hibernating bat populations in North America, but species in Europe appear to cope better with fungal skin infections that result in white-nose syndrome. A Forest Service scientist collaborated with scientists in the Czech Republic to develop a nonlethal method of comparing WNS infection in North American and European bats.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Amelon, Sybill 
Research Location : Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia, Poland, Russia and the USA
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1275


Perhaps the most catastrophic wildlife disease in a century, white-nose syndrome (WNS) has killed millions of bats in the United States, causing some species to be federally listed as threatened or endangered. Until recently, bats had to be dead or euthanized for laboratory testing procedures required to collect dermato-histopathological (skin lesion) samples from the wings, muzzle, and ears and to optimize detection of WNS. In addition, the severity scoring system for WNS currently in use requires the whole membrane from one wing. In order to conserve more individuals and recover affected species, finding a nonlethal sampling method was imperative. A Forest Service scientist and her partners in the Czech Republic have validated a new nonlethal technique for identifying and targeting WNS skin lesions for sampling. Transillumination of a wing membrane with ultraviolet (UV) light elicits a distinct orange-yellow fluorescence that corresponds directly with the fungal cupping erosions in histological sections of the respective skin area. The fluorescence emitted from these skin lesions is associated with hyperaccumulation of riboflavin, a secondary fungal metabolite that may also represent a virulence factor leading to skin damage. When not being used in combination with infected wing membrane biopsies, UV transillumination can also be used for noninvasive photographic surveillance of infection intensity. The proposed semi-quantitative pathology score was tested and proved to be a powerful and widely applicable tool for defining WNS severity.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • CEITEC—Central European Institute of Technology
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno, Czech Republic
  • Wroc?aw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Wroc?aw, Poland

Program Areas