Researchers Develop Test for Early Identification of WNS Causing Fungus

March 15, 2013 / United States, North America
Tri-colored bat with visible symptoms of WNS in Georgia's Cloudland Canyon State Park.

Tri-colored bat with visible symptoms of WNS in Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon State Park. Photo by Pete Pattavina/USFWS

A team of researchers working on identifying additional species of Geomyces have developed a new technique that allows for early identification of Geomyces destructans the fungus which causes white-nose syndrome.

The research, published in this months issue of the journal Mycologia, uses highly sensitive DNA-based technique to detect the presence of Geomyces destructans in bats, soils and even on cave walls.

Currently, identification of the fungus is difficult and largely depends on finding sick or already dead bats.

In contrast with previous DNA tests for the fungus, which lacked sensitivity and had the potential for false positives, this new test is 100-times more sensitive and is able to detect even a single spore of Geomyces destructans.

The significance of the Forest Service’s recent research will have an immediate and direct benefit to WNS response at a national scale. This will allow managers to sample soil and substrates to test for the presence of Geomyces destructans, freeing up limited surveillance funds and time. Additionally, this opens the door to examine the use of gene silencing as a control mechanism for this devastating fungus. Research like this, that directly benefits resource managers and guides us to controlling this fungus, is critically needed. Katie Gillies, imperiled species coordinator at Bat Conservation International

As part of the project, the team, made up of scientists from the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with folks at the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin, successfully identified 35 species of Geomyces, more than doubling the number of known varieties.

Bat Disease: More Accurate, Sensitive DNA Test Allows Early Identification of Fungus Causing White Nose Syndrome [ScienceDaily]

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