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How a Deadly Bat Fungal Disease Reached the Washington State

Aug 05, 2016 05:06 AM EDT
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Biologists from Washington State confirmed that the fungal disease that has killed more than seven million bats in America is now in Washington. But how did it get there?

Just recently, a bat found near North Bend, Washington, about 1,300 miles from the previous westernmost detection in Nebraska, was confirmed positive of Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus or Pd strain.

After sending a sample DNA from the fungus on the infected bat to a laboratory at the Forest Service's Northern Research Station (NRS) for genetic analysis, it was revealed that it closely matched fungal strains from eastern North America.

"Although it remains unclear how Pd reached Washington, this finding guides us to look to North America as the source," said Jonathan Sleeman, director of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC), in a press release sent to Nature World News.

"Now that Pd has been identified in the western U.S., it's critical to continue working with resource managers to help conserve imperiled bat species, which are worth billions of dollars per year to North American agriculture and forestry."

Pd has been causing the spread of the devastating disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS) among North American bats.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, white-nose syndrome was first documented in New York in 2006 and has rapidly spread westward in North America to neighboring states and even in Canada. The disease has killed millions of beneficial, insect-eating bats and has threatened several formerly abundant bat species with extinction.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey's website, 80 percent of bats in Northeastern U.S. have been wiped out ever since the disease emerged.

While the large-scale consequence of this has not been fully identified yet, farmers are among the most affected. Bats, being the primary consumers of insects, can help farmers drive away pests that will ruin their plants. Without bats, farms might be pestered in an alarming rate.

Data from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that at present, seven species of cave-hibernating bats, including two endangered species (Gray bat and Indiana bat) have been infected by the disease.

The study conducted by U.S. Geological Survey and USDA Forest Service was published in the journal mSphere.

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