WNS - An exotic species?

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WNS - An exotic species?

Postby Anonymous_Coward » Feb 26, 2009 10:12 am

I am re-posting this in a new thread because it got fatally buried on the other huge thread. If anyone else wants to move theirs over too, please do. Thanks to the mods for creating this sub-forum. :clap:

dfcaver wrote:
The spread of WNS is eerily similar to the spread of West Nile Virus. Emerging out of NYC, it spread nationwide much faster than WNS. We all know it's main source of spread to be mosquito based. Interestingly enough, West Nile can infect bats, both through a bite or ingestion. The first place the virus was isolated from bats? Albany, NY.

This is an excellent point. To the untrained eye, WNS certainly appears to behave like an exotic species. Its sudden onset, radial spread, and lack of immunity in host organisms all seem to suggest this.

How about y'all that are biologically trained? Would you agree that WNS is likely an exotic, introduced disease? Is there research aimed in this direction? Have we confirmed that this fungus does not exist on other continents? As a kid, I remember the balsam wooly adelgid spreading south down the Appalachian Mtns. in much the same pattern as WNS is now.

How about NY, or Albany in particular? Is there anything in this area that points to a source or introduction site? Does maritime shipping extend up the Hudson to Albany? How about any labs or facilities in the area that may have let this pathogen escape? I am reminded of the Chronic Wasting Disease prion that supposedly escaped from a facility in Colorado to wreak havoc on elk populations.

I know I have asked lots of questions. Answers to any of them would be appreciated, and I realize that the answers may not exist.
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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby dfcaver » Feb 26, 2009 1:53 pm

Please note that I am NOT saying the WNS is the same as WNV. The spread of WNS resembles that of WNV. The Albany location is a coincidence, at least to my knowledge, as is the time frame.

All new and emerging diseases will leave evidence of their preferred mode of transmission in the wake of their spread. WNV, spread by birds mosquitoes and God knows what else, covered the USA from sea to sea in just a couple of years.
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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby cavercrew » Feb 26, 2009 10:19 pm

Check out
specifically go to WNS background/ current status and download the slideshow by Alan Hicks dated 11-29-08.
Check out slide #20, it shows evidence of a fungal growth on bats from Costa Rica and France.
Though I'm no scientist this WNS deal could very well be something introduced to the bats from somewhere else that they have not learned to deal with yet. Bats are old. They have been around far longer than we have. They have probably dealt with things we haven't even thought of yet. Scientists have recently figured out they carry some of the most deadly and virulent diseases known to man and yet they survive.
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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby cavergirl » Feb 27, 2009 12:48 pm

jaa45993 wrote: Have we confirmed that this fungus does not exist on other continents?

The Bat Conservation Trust in the UK is aware of the problem and has drawn up WNS guidance for bat workers and cavers in the UK, which provides information on WNS

Their website states “although there has not yet been a confirmed diagnosis of WNS in the UK or mainland Europe, bats with fungal growths have recently been reported in the Netherlands and Germany, prompting concern that WNS might occur in Europe. As a precautionary measure, BCT has set up a surveillance system to monitor the observations of bat workers in the UK.”

http://www.bats.org.uk/publications_dow ... elines.pdf
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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby wyandottecaver » Feb 27, 2009 6:47 pm

WNS certainly behaves like an exotic species. Last I had heard the fungal evidence from other countries had not been tied to the particular strain of fungus here, but that may have/or will change. Another thing to note is that because of the attention WNS is getting, other more benign things that may have been around a while unnoticed are now drawing attention. So, WNS might be homegrown but recently mutated into something worse, or something brought from a region mostly devoid of bats that suddenly found itself with lots of new hosts.
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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby chac » Feb 28, 2009 1:52 pm

If fungal growth is detected on bats in areas outside of the CONUS, might it not be wise for current bat biologists, microbiologists, and other involved researchers in the USA to begin collaborative efforts with their foreign colleagues now? I won't suggest that identification of a specific US flavor of "WNS" fungal species is necessary or important at this point between bat researchers in various countries. I do feel it is important to start talking with, and sharing what we have learned so far from our experiences with other Chiroptera biologists across our borders. Fungi, like bacteria, virii, or most any other life form will evolve to suit their environment, hence new species or sub-species. I am sure Peter Y. is over-tasked as it is with the US research. Perhaps we could find someone to step up to the plate on this who is fluent in many languages, knowledgeable of other researchers, and able to facilitate a worthwhile collaboration.

Cavers do move around the globe, and that just can't be stopped. I cave a lot in Quintana Roo Mexico - in both underwater and dry caves. This area is one of the largest staging grounds in the world for migratory bird species (if this makes any difference). There's a huge resident bat population in this area. So far the bat population looks full of piss and vinegar in the dry caves and underwater cave entrances I have visited in past years. I have not seen any "white noses", but I am looking hard.

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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby PYoungbaer » Feb 28, 2009 7:34 pm

Regarding any European connections, as you might expect many US researchers have been in regular communication with their counterparts on the subject of WNS for quite some time. These include Dr. David Blehert, Dr. Thomas Kunz, Paul Cryan, USGS, Al Hicks, NYDEC, and others.

When the first photos of white-nosed bats were taken, they were circulated world-wide. With notable exceptions, no reported having ever seen anything like it. One of those exceptions was the Netherlands photo. Unfortunately, no one knew to sample or collect the bat at the time.

Last winter, bat researchers in Europe, having pan-European agreements, began looking for any symptoms of WNS. Few reports came in.

In November, after Dr. Blehert published his findings on the new species of Geomyces fungus, there was a long e-mail thread across the ocean involving many of the US folks, plus people from the London’s Institute for Zoology, Berlin’s Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Bristol University’s School for Biological Sciences, and Bat Conservation Trust.

Much information was shared, including how to properly culture the new species, and the status of ongoing research. Of particular interest to the Europeans was the soil sampling study currently underway, as well as the research on arousal patterns.

The questions raised by the Europeans were many of the same ones you raise: is the fungus a cause, or just an opportunistic agent? Was it brought to America inadvertently by a caver or researcher? Was it taken to Europe from America? As it is a brand new species identified here, does it already exist in Europe, but is contained or suppressed in the environment by other biological elements not existing in the US? As Geomyces are ubiquitous, what makes this one different?

These discussions led, in part, to the recently posted protocols on the BCT website. You will note their decontamination protocols are taken directly from those of the USFWS.

In January, Kunz and Cryan attended the Bat Migration conference in Berlin, where WNS developments in the US were presented in a pre-symposium workshop dedicated to WNS. In addition to the US reports, brief presentations on fungal infections of hibernating bats in the Netherlands, Italy, and Northern Germany were made. I’m not aware of any published proceedings at this time, but it’s early.

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Re: WNS - An exotic species?

Postby chac » Mar 1, 2009 9:56 am


Thank you very much for your synopsis on the present state of collaborative efforts between European and US bat scientists. I do appreciate your keeping us informed!

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