JUN 26, 2015 08:43 AM PDT

Batman's New Robin

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
White-nose syndrome (WNS), caused by the cold-loving fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has devastated bat populations across eastern North America. It infects hibernating bats, depleting their fat stores and waking them when food is scarce. The white fungus grows on the bats' wings, ears, and nose (hence "white-nose") and has killed an estimated 6 million bats over the past decade. No small matter, considering these bats save U.S. farmers nearly $23 billion per year by munching on insects that would otherwise damage crops (Science Magazine).

The white fungal growth on this bat's nose gives
Two groups of researchers have turned to bacteria for help. Christopher Cornelison, a postdoctoral research associate in the Sidney Crow lab at Georgia State University, treated WNS-infected bats with the gram-positive bacterium Rhodococcus rhodochrous. This soil-dwelling bacterium produces volatile organic compounds that inhibit fungal growth (BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:246). In collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Cornelison placed Petri dishes containing R. rhodochrous in caves containing WNS-infected bats. On May 19th, the team released the fungus-free bats back to the wild (check out the video). The next challenge is to develop an effective treatment protocol. The Crow lab is currently testing a patent-pending device to disperse the antifungal organic compounds. (Georgia State University)



Similarly, Joseph Hoyt, a graduate student in the Marm Kilpatrick lab at the University of California Santa Cruz, showed that Pseudomonas isolates from bat wings inhibited the growth of P. destructans. Hoyt and colleagues showed that two strains of Pseudomonas fluorescens significantly inhibited fungal growth on agar plates. In fact, these strains are commonly found on bats that show lower WNS mortality rates. The group hopes to develop a "probiotic" treatment for bats using these Pseudomonas isolates. (J. R. Hoyt et al. PLoS ONE 10, e0121329; 2015)

There is one caveat, however. These treatments do not provide the bats with any immunity to future infection. In fact, it is unclear whether a WNS vaccine would even be useful. According to Bucknell University ecoimmunologist Ken Field, bats do produce antibodies to P. destructans, but they do not appear to enhance survival. (Nature News)

Sources: Georgia State University, Science Magazine, BMC Microbiology, Mother Nature Network, IFL Science, Nature, PLoS ONE, Microbewiki
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
SEP 22, 2018
Videos
SEP 22, 2018
Did a Vampire Facial Expose Patients to Bloodborne Disease?
It seems there is no shortage of unusual beauty rituals; vampire facials may fall into that category....
OCT 16, 2018
Microbiology
OCT 16, 2018
Simple Test Rapidly Diagnoses Antibiotic-resistant Infections
If we get a bacterial infection, doctors use antibiotics to treat it. But sometimes people are infected by pathogens that are resistant to drugs....
OCT 16, 2018
Videos
OCT 16, 2018
Can the Bacteria That we Carry Give us Special Powers?
The bacteria that we carry in and on our bodies can affect our health and well-being in many ways....
NOV 26, 2018
Health & Medicine
NOV 26, 2018
The Fight Bite
  Human bite wounds are a common source of polymicrobial infections accounting for many emergency room visits. One bacteria, Eikenella corrodens, ...
NOV 25, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 25, 2018
Researchers Learn How Hantavirus Infects Cells
First identified in 1993, hantavirus infections can cause dangerous and potentially deadly respiratory infections....
DEC 03, 2018
Microbiology
DEC 03, 2018
Finding Emerging Viruses
Scientists have developed a tool that enables them to predict what viruses be transmissible between infected people....
Loading Comments...