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White-Nose Syndrome: Devastating Disease Found in Chinese Bats

Nov 02, 2015 03:09 PM EST

White-nose syndrome, the bat disease that has had disastrous effects in North America after migrating from Europe and being detected in upstate New York in 2006, has now been found in caves in northeast China.

American and Chinese researchers found bats infected with the fungus there, showing lesions that were like the lesions seen on North American bats, but the scientists do not yet know how extensively Chinese bat species have been affected by the disease, according to a release.

"We don't have historic population counts for bats in China, but there is no obvious evidence of the kind of population collapses that we've seen in North America," Joseph Hoyt, a graduate student at University of California Santa Cruz, lead author of the study, said in the release. The study findings were published recently in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

As in Europe, it now seems that in China there is no indication that the fungus is causing mass kill-offs in the bat populations. It's possible that in areas where the fungus has long existed, bat species may have developed tolerance of or resistance to the disease, even as they suffer a certain amount of mortality, said Marm Kilpatrick, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, in a release.

In the new study, we learn more about the fungus' distribution around the world. For instance, the fact that bat species in Asia and Europe overlap in range a bit may suggest that the disease is present across northern Europe and Asia confirmed the release.

One learning of the study is that it might be important to decontaminate after leaving caves in China, if one is returning to an area in which bats are affected more strongly by white-nose disease, the release confirmed.

In the area around Changchun, China, Hoyt and other researchers found the fungus at nine out of 12 sites, then returned in winter and located the fungus in 75 percent of samples from among three species of bats, the release said.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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