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Pathogenic Effects of White Nose Bat Syndrome, Research Paper Example

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Words: 1525

Research Paper

Introduction

In the past one year, a mysterious infection has been killing a huge majority of the wintering bats in mines and caves from Virginia to Vermont .This has raised great concern to biologists and ecologists on its nature and how it can be controlled. Veterinary personnel and other scientists have been trying to investigate the nature of this White- Nose Syndrome (WNS), an emerging bat disease connected with the death of over half a million of the insectivorous bats in the Eastern frontiers states of America (Golas and Buckles 56).

Although exact cause has not been properly diagnosed, this pathogen has been associated with intense cold climate especially during winters. Scientists have been wondering whether this fungus is the lone cause of the deaths or if it is just taking the advantage of the bat’s weakened immunity caused by an independent chemical or biological agent. The worst hit species are the eastern pipitrelles and the tiny brown bat populations with the entire of their population virtually wiped out in some winter hibernacula (Golas and Buckles 23). The federal government agencies together with some academic institutions have partnered in order to investigate the causes and the damage caused by this disease. This has also been extended to finding out it’s consequences on the overall bat population and the necessary mitigation measures required to salvage the remaining portion.

The fungus was given the name “White- Nose Syndrome” (WNS) because of its evident white fungus that occur on the muzzle and other infected parts of the body of the bats. This striking feature was also expected as white fungal growth around the wing and ear membranes. Microscopic examination of the affected skin showed colonized psychro- philic fungus that is connected genetically to Geomyces spp. In 2006, a two year study revealed that there was a 75 percent decline in the bat population which was attributed to this deadly white- nose syndrome (WNS) (Blehert 227). The growth of the fungus was higher in areas whose temperature range was between 2 and 14 0c (Berdick 45).

The first incident of this fungus was recorded in the four US States of Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and Connecticut in 2006 (Louis 65- 7). This fungus was common in certain bat species such as Northern long- eared bat (M. septentrionalis), silver haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), little brown bat (Myitis lucifugus), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), Red bat (Lasiurus borealis), this fungus affects bats which hibernate either as colonies or individually.

The pattern and transmission and presence of these pathogens are attributed to the ecological changes of the climate especially in cold seasons. These pathogens which cause acute infection on the exposed skin of the bats are closely linked to soil and identical conditions at 40F temperature (Berdick 96).

Mode of Transmission

It is not clear how the pathogens are spread but the likely method is from one bat to another. There are possible ways of transmission whereby through their equipment and clothing, human beings transport this fungus from infected regions to clean ones, this clearly shows there are no clear origin of this pathogens and the effectual spreading. When hibernating t, the temperature of these bats drop by 1 0c in a state referred to as deep torpor where the skin of the bat begin to become moldy; this gives this these fungus a chance to get into their bodies (Barbara 32).

In some regions for example Chester, Massachusetts, unusual death of bats during sunny days at freezing temperature ranges was reported. It is known that bats remain in hibernation throughout this period only to reappear in the end of March of the onset of April. These reappeared bats should increased signs of emaciation and general weakness- a known symptom of the WNS. This was attributed to starvation as a result of quick depletion of the stored white and brown fat, thus leading to their starvation and consequent inhibition of their immune system. This fungus is believed to have been introduced into this caves and the possible way to eradicate them is not known. The best method so far suggested to curb the spread is containment since there a section of the bats which escape this scourge only ton return tom get infected upon returning to this caves.  In the United States, 23 of the 45 species of bats are highly susceptible to this endemic (Barbara 89).

Mode of Diagnosis

Scientists and ecologists are quite perplexed by the behavior of bats getting out of their hibernations earlier than necessary and thus the subsequent starving. Tests on the blood of tiny bats after transmission have been used to understand the nature of the killer fungus. Insight research has been carried out in Aeolus caves in order to determine their true nature. From this study a rather conflicting outcome has shown that instead of the fungus, a bacterium could be responsible as a causative agent.

Pathology

The first case of WNS was detected through a photograph taken on February 16, 2006 in Albany, New York. Since that incident, the infection has been detected in over 33 locations throughout the northern eastern states. Detailed reports on post mortem tests carried out on the various species indicated earlier. Histological examinations shows that the bats hair follicles, sweat glands and the related subcutaneous tissues have been replace by fungal hyphae, thus making the foreign regional tissue and basement membrane to be bleached. These hyphae also led to the erosion of the epidermal layer of the wings and ears. This foreign coetaneous fungal infection contain not recognizable fat necessary for the bats’ successful hibernation period; hence the starvation (Berdick 45).

Contrary to the earlier assumption, the morphological characteristics of the collected psychrophilic fungal pathogens differed from the known characteristics of Geomyces spp. These single and curved morphology conidia differed with the arthroconidia, clavate character shown by the terrestrial saprophytes of Geomyces Spp.

Treatment and Prevention

Several management strategies have been brought forward for consideration in order to contain the spreading and transmission of this pandemic. However most of these suggestions have not been subjected to close scientific scrutiny. The first strategy is to censure all human activities and movements within the caves for time duration of not less than one year. This strategy has so far been put into practice in Eastern Europe. Since one the predisposing conditions for the thriving of these pathogens within the caves have been the low temperatures, a scheme has been proposed to boost the energy reserves of the bats during hibernation by heating up sections of the cave hibernacula. This discourages the bats from getting out of hibernation before onset of spring in order to such for food. However, these are temporary immediate solutions meant to maintain the bat population to the next winter, as a definitive treatment is being researched on (Schuller and Ballman 56).

Epidemiology

Scientists at NWHC have been carrying out vital transmission and infection tests on this fungus Geomyces destructans responsible for the condition that is manifested by skin lesions on the skin of the infected bats. These scientists have gone further to analyzing soil samples in the bats dwelling places such as caves in the affected areas so as to the transmission of the Geomyces destructans in light to the affected hibernacula. Some immediate mitigation measures have been instituted including the closure of caves to stop any human activity that could be aiding the spreading of this WNs fungus. This has been mostly applied in areas which recorded longer winter hibernacula such as Central United States (Schuller and Ballman 65).

Future

As of today, over 400 000 bats have succumbed to this fungus, making the situation an ecological disaster. If this is left to continue the entire bats species could be wiped out. Although there is a 5- 10 percent survival chances, this does not make up a dependable survival rate owing to the huge ecological importance of this creatures. Studies have shown that an adult bat consumes over 1000 insects in a day, thus they have become important recourse in curbing parasites and pests in forestry and agriculture. The demise of this population could mean in the next summer there will be huge rise of insects and pests (Seely 3).

With the ecological being unable to control the fungus, human intervention is very crucial otherwise great losses with be experienced in crucial human activities. Hopeful management is thus put in place to curtail further spread. This however has been faced with low funding and little practical based research.

Works Cited

Barbara Schmidt & French. Do Bats Drink Blood. NY: Rutgers University Press, 2009

Berdick, Chris & Brown, Edward A. Bat Man v White Nose. 10 Sept. 2009 1 Oct. 2009 <http://www.bu.edu/today/2009/09/03/bat-man-vs-white-nose>.

Blehart, David S. Bat-Nose Syndrome: An Emerging Fungal Pattern? 16 January 2009 1 October 2009 <http://www.life.umd.edu/faculty/wilkinson/SFT/Blehert09Science.pdf>

Blehart, David S. Bat White-Nose Syndrome: An Emerging Fungal Pathogen? 9 January 2009 1 October 2009 < http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5911/227>

Golas, B and Buckles, E. Dermatological Analysis of Wings from Bats with White Nose Syndrome 2 March 2009 1 October 2009                <http://ecommons.library.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/13078/1/Golas,%20Benjamin%20-        %20Research%20Honors%20Thesis.pdf>

Fleming, Theodore, A bat man in the tropics. California: University of California Press, 2003

Schuller and Ballman, A. White Nose Syndrome (WNS). 9 January 2009 2 October 2009 <http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/white-nose_syndrome/>

Seely, R. Racing Deadly Fungus to Save Nations Bats. 6 September 2009 2 October 2009, <http://www.allbusiness.com/medicine-health/diseases-disorders/12855022-1.html>

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