Wednesday, 7 February 2018

White-nose syndrome fungus may have an Achilles' heel


In the course of genomic analyses of the fungus behind white-nose-syndrome, a devastating disease that has killed millions of bats in North America, US Forest Service scientists discovered something very surprising: brief exposure to UV-light kills Pseudogymnoascus destructans.

In the course of genomic analyses of P. destructans, a team of scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of New Hampshire found that the fungus is highly sensitive to UV light. P. destructans can only infect bats during hibernation because it has a strict temperature growth range of about 39-68 degrees Fahrenheit. However, treating bats for the disease during hibernation is challenging, so any weakness of the fungus may be good news to managers trying to develop treatment strategies.

In a study published on Jan. 2 in the journal Nature Communications titled "Extreme sensitivity to ultra-violet light in the fungal pathogen causing white-nose syndrome of bats," the research team suggests that P. destructans is likely a true fungal pathogen of bats that evolved alongside bat species in Europe and Asia for millions of years, allowing Eurasian bats to develop defenses against it. In the course of comparing P. destructans to six closely related non-pathogenic fungi, researchers discovered that P. destructans is unable to repair DNA damage caused by UV light, which could lead to novel treatments for the disease. The study was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

See:

Jonathan M. Palmer, Kevin P. Drees, Jeffrey T. Foster, Daniel L. Lindner. Extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet light in the fungal pathogen causing white-nose syndrome of batsNature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02441-z

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle

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