Saturday, October 21, 2023

Development of Resistance to White-Nose Syndrome In Bats

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a lethal fungal disease caused by the ascomycete Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Bat populations have been decreasing drastically across North America because of this disease, which causes bats to prematurely awaken from hibernation in search of water and food when little is available. Since there is little food resources available when the bats affected by P. destructans exit hibernation they starve or freeze to death. Recently, the little brown bat's population has been increasing suggesting a resistance to the fungus. Wing punch samples from survivors and victims of a WNS identified 63 unique single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that occur more often in WNS survivors than in bats who died of WNS. Only one of these were associated with the immune system in bats, while the rest were related to host response to WNS and changes in metabolism during hibernation. Survivors of the disease were found to have better fat storage and temperature regulation than those that succumbed to it. Researchers have tried developing vaccines, fungicide treatment, and habitat improvement strategies to combat WNS; however, these methods are rather ineffective and costly. 

Identifying the behavioral changes in WNS survivors as well as liking these changes to genotype and phenotype could be the next crucial step in combating this disease. Personally I would like to see more comparisons between North American and Eurasian bats and their genomes as Eurasian bats are not as susceptible to WNS (thought to be because of coevolution due to common origin). The resistance seen in little brown bats suggests a future for at least one species of bat, and with knowledge of what genes could aid in a bat's survival it may not be unreasonable to genetically modify bat species. In fact for farmers of plants like bananas, mangoes, cashews, avocadoes, peaches and cloves there would be financial incentive to create such an organism as without bats these species may cease to exist.,the%20solution%20to%20the%20problem

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