Ironic: Bats Need Sunlight to Fight Deadly Disease

Researchers say they may have discovered a treatment for White Nose Syndrome in bats. The deadly fungal disease has already killed nearly 6 million bats across the country. The pathogen shows up as white spots on the bats’ face and body. Researchers now say the fungus is one of few organisms that cannot repair itself after exposure to ultraviolet light. U-S Forest Service Research Biologist, Jonathon Palmer, is part of the team that discovered the treatment. He says White Nose Syndrome is considered an invasive species.

 

Effectively what happens is the UV light damages the DNA of the fungus and because it’s missing this specific enzyme, it’s unable to repair that damage, and therefore does not survive” -Jonathon Palmer, USFS Biologist

 

Palmer says any treatment must avoid disrupting the bats’ hibernation cycle. He says the skin fungus irritates bats, wakes them early from hibernation, and forces them to use their body fat reserves before food is readily available.  Palmer says researchers are testing the treatment now. 

Perhaps you could restrict the entrances to these caves or mines and have some sort of light source and sort of funnel the bats through a tube where they could be exposed to the light as they fly in and out of the cave

Palmer says testing on the effectiveness of the light therapy should be finished by early summer.

Click on the audio link above to hear the entire conversation between Palmer and WDET’s Amy Miller

Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Aired on: Morning Edition
About the Author

Amy Miller

Reporter/Producer

Amy has been working in public and commercial radio for the last 30 yrs. She is an award winning reporter and news anchor, born and raised in Detroit.

amiller@wdet.org   Follow @wdetamy

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