Monday, May 2, 2016

Using Bats to Test A New Approach to the Fight Against Fungus

Fungal species have amounted to disastrous events for a diverse range of species throughout time. Hundreds of animal and plant species alike have went extinct due to strains of these silent killers. A focus recently has been the devastating effect that Pseudogymnoascus destructans have on bats. This fungal variety in particular infects bats during hibernation and leads to the lethal white-nose syndrome, causing a 90% population decrease in multiple bat species throughout the last decade.

Alike many fungal diseases affecting species worldwide, there is no known solution for most of these diseases. Since wiping out a fungal species could create more problems for the surrounding ecosystem, geneticists plan to genetically weaken the fungus to allow the species to eventually build an immunity to it. The easily sequenced and easy to grow Pseudogymnoascus destructans makes it a great model for this worldwide epidemic. 

Less virulent strains of the fungus can be genetically modified using RNAi or CRISPR. Another strategy is going to be creating a virus to infect the fungus, called a mycovirus, and in turn reduce its fitness. Experiments are currently underway by the scientists over at Revive & Restore to choose the most successful strain of the fungus to then be deployed at hibernation sites. The severity of the white-nose syndrome will then be monitored over time to see the conclusive effects of this strategy. 

Read the whole article here

This research caught my eye because not only do I really enjoy acts towards the conservation of living organisms, but for it to be done genetically in a way that conserves the organisms on both ends of this fight to create a peaceful solution is really awesome to me. The evolution of genomics is increasing at such a great slope and I'm excited to see where it will take us in the field of health and wellness for all living organisms. I also am really looking forward to hearing about what comes of the current research presented in this article.

1 comment:

  1. Observations in nature like this one are so fascinating because it turns into a huge ethical dilemma of whether or not human intervention should be involved. I think that ultimately it is selfish to think we would not help bats because we would obviously combat the fungus if it were killing humans. That being said, I think it is wise that we do figure out how to combat this fungus using genetic technology so we are more prepared in the event that the fungus begins to kill humans.