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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Fungus-infecting virus could help track spread of white-nose syndrome in bats.

A newly discovered virus infecting the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats could help scientists and wildlife agencies track the spread of the disease that is decimating bat populations in the United States, according to a new study. The study published online in PLOS Pathogens, the researchers were able to eliminate the virus from one fungal isolate, which provided a virus-free isolate that they could compare to wild isolates that harbor the virus to look for biochemical changes. White-nose syndrome is a particularly lethal wildlife disease, killing an estimated 6 million bats in North America since it was identified in 2006. The disease, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, first was found in New York and now has spread to 29 states and four Canadian provinces. Although several species of bats have been affected, some of the most prevalent species in the Northeast -- such as little brown bats -- have suffered estimated mortality as high as 99 percent. These losses have serious ecological implications. For instance, bats have a voracious appetite for insects and are credited with helping to control populations of mosquitoes and some agricultural pests. P. destructans is clonal, meaning it is essentially identical everywhere it has been found in North America, making it difficult to determine how it is moving, but the virus it harbors has quite a bit of variation. All the fungal isolates from Pennsylvania that were analyzed all had the viruses that were similar,but those viruses differ from the ones found in isolates from Canada, New York and so. forth. The differences in the viruses reflect the movement of the fungus, and this viral variability would give a clearer picture of how the disease is spreading.