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Research Suggests White Nose Syndrome Takes Early Foothold in Bats

Marvin Moriarty
US Fish and Wildlife Service

A recent study takes a closer look at how the deadly white nose syndrome affects bats.

Scientists know the fungal disease kills bats by disrupting their hibernation, which makes the bats run out of valuable energy stores. 

David Blehert from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Wildlife Health Center in Madison says scientists have now measured increases in bats’ metabolic rates earlier than expected. 

“This process of increased energy expenditure as a result of white nose syndrome actually starts well before we start seeing signs of the disease. So we measured a 2-fol d increase in energy consumption in bats with WNS compared to their uninfected counterparts – prior being able to see any white fungal growth on the bats.”

Other signs of the disease include increased carbon dioxide concentrations in bats’ blood. 

Blehert says a greater understanding of the disease is a step towards hopefully saving more bats. 

“We do know that it’s of critical importance that we protect bat habitat, and that we minimize disturbance to bats, because we have documented that some bats do survive white nose syndrome.”

White nose was found in Wisconsin for the first time last year in a cave in Grant County.  

The recent paper comes from UW Madison and the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, and is published in the journal BMC Physiology

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