Advancing the health and well-being of animals and people

Principal Investigator: Amy Glaser
Co-Principal Investigator:  Elizabeth Bunting
Co-Principal Investigator:  Elizabeth Buckles
Co-Principal Investigator:  Craig Altier

Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Department of Biomedical Sciences
Contact Information: Email: - Phone: 607-253-3924
Sponsor:  USDA – Federal Formula Funds - Hatch Act
Grant Number:  NYC-478480
Title:  Diagnostic Test Development and Strain Typing for Geomyces Destructans in Bats and Exploration of Fungal Diversity in Bat Habitats
Annual Direct Cost:  $30,000
Project Period:  10/01/2011-09/30/2014

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant):  There are more than 45 species of bats in the United States, over half of which are insectivores that hibernate as a means of surviving winter. In 2006 a novel fungus later identified as Geomyces destructans was first seen growing around the noses and on the wings of hibernating little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) in New York State. This fungal disease was termed "White Nose Syndrome." Affected bats abnormally wake from hibernation, leading to a rapid loss of fat stores which leaves them unable to survive the winter. Many bats are found dead at cave entrances, having left the cave in a vain attempt to forage for food. G. destructans has since spread to 6 species of hibernating bats (including the endangered Indiana bat Myotis sodalis) in 11 states and Canada, and it has been linked with the deaths of at least 1 million bats over the past 3 years. If current conditions continue, the once numerous little brown bat, whose diet includes a large number of agricultural pests, is predicted to face extinction within the next 16 years in New York State. The loss of this species could have wide spread impacts on the ecosystem and agriculture in North America. Research is ongoing, but the fungus is poorly characterized, diagnostic testing is limited, and strain variations, transmission dynamics and contributing factors are not known. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National White Nose Management Plan calls for a rapid and coordinated response to protect bat populations. The development of high volume, rapid and accurate diagnostic testing is an absolute priority to facilitate tracking the geographic spread of G. destructans, and to provide testing services to identify fungus on bats and in the environment. We will develop a real time PCR assay targeting a G. destructans-specific sequence within the mitochondrial DNA gene sequence of G. Destructans for use in identifying infected bats and bat habitats. In addition, information is needed to aid in the identification of Geomyces sp. and other fungal species present in hibernacula environments to establish baseline species distribution data. Targeted PCR amplification of fungal sequence followed by high throughput sequencing will allow detailed analysis of variation within G.destructans rDNA sequences and identify fungal species diversity within bat habitats. This will facilitate further work to understand diversity and evolution of G. destructans and natural population dynamics of fungal species in bat habitats. The sequence information will be useful to inform future research objectives to gain a better understanding of the natural biology of these agents and their interactions with bats.