Nonlethal method of defining white-nose syndrome infection proves effective
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