Weekly Article: UV Rays and the Possibility to Cure White-Nose Syndrome

UV Rays and the Possibility to Cure White-Nose Syndrome

by: Raquel Zuniga

 Wing from dead eastern pipestrelle ( Pipistrellus subflavus ) bat shows points of orange-yellow fluorescence when exposed to UV light. From  Turner and others, 2014, Figure 1E, page 569 .

Wing from dead eastern pipestrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus) bat shows points of orange-yellow fluorescence when exposed to UV light. From Turner and others, 2014, Figure 1E, page 569.

White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a deadly fungal disease which affects North American bats. Caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans, a fungus, the syndrome was first found in a New York cave in 2006, and since has taken the lifeof at least 5.7 billion bats in 31 States and five Canadian provinces, according to Smithsonian Magazine. 

This fungus has evolved to thrive in cold environments, where bats tend to hibernate, thus growing on the wings, ears and snouts of the hibernating bats, which irritates them and causes them to wake up during the winter. “Hibernating bats have just enough fat stored to make it through the colder months, but each time they wake up, they waste energy and burn too much fat, which leaves them too exhausted to survive through the spring,” says Smithsonian Magazine. 

Don’t fret bat loving friends, there is talk in the research community of a possible cure for this bat-killing disease. A new study that was published January 2nd in Nature Communications (www.nature.com) explains this fungus is missing a  key "self-healing" enzyme, which means that when exposed to UV light, the fungus is irreparably damaged. 

Previously, UV light has been used to detect the fungus, which, in it's early stages, is often invisible to the naked eye. This newly discovered vulnerability to UV light could be exploited for WNS management and help save the bat population.

While there is no threat to humans from WNS, people should still implement safe practices when entering caves to avoid contamination of equipment and prevent continued spread of the fungus.

As always, remember: Don’t attempt to rescue a bat on your own; always call an appropriate animal rescue service in your local area. 

For more information on this subject, you can read the published study at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-02441-z#Sec7 and check out: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/uv-light-could-be-cure-bat-decimating-disease-180967741/  and https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/north-america-bat-killer-white-nose-syndrome-ultraviolet-light-spd/