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Scientists tackle the mystery of white-nose syndrome in bats
Date:6/4/2009

KNOXVILLE -- The mysterious disease that has killed more than 90 percent of wintering bats in some caves and mines from Vermont to Virginia during the last three years has raised numerous questions about the nature of the disease and how to control it.

Leading experts in the fields of bat physiology, fungal ecology, ecotoxicology, disease and environmental modeling, among others, will gather at a workshop at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), June 29-July 1, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to explore the disease and to develop solutions to manage it. Representatives from relevant state and federal agencies and other organizations will also attend.

The affliction has been given the name White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) due to its distinctive white fungus growing on the muzzles and other body parts of infected bats. More than a half million bats have died in the last three years due to the disease. Although the cause is unknown, the pathogen is most likely a cold climate fungus. Scientists do not know if the fungus is the sole cause of the bat deaths, or if it is merely an opportunistic pathogen, taking advantage of immune systems weakened by another biological or chemical agent.

It is unclear how WNS spreads, but it is likely transmitted from bat to bat. Other evidence suggests that humans transport the fungus from infected sites to clean sites on clothing and equipment.

The purpose of the meeting is to determine the present knowledge of the disease and to develop predictive models to determine how and under what conditions the disease might spread. Ultimately, the models would be used to help devise appropriate management strategies for controlling it.

Tom Hallam, workshop co-organizer and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UT Knoxville, said so far two management strategies have been proposed to contain the spread of the disease. The first is to eliminate hu
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Contact: Catherine Crawley
ccrawley@nimbios.org
865-974-9350
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis
Source:Eurekalert

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