Saturday, July 9, 2011

Acronym in microbiology and pathology: WNS for white-nose syndrome

WNS stands for white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection found in various bat species. The white-nose syndrome fungus (Geomyces destructans) affects hibernating bats in Europe and, more recently, also in North America [1]. The disease was discovered in early 2007, when bats in upstate New York started behaving oddly, flying far away from their caves during icy-cold winter days [2]. Infected bats typically show white patches of fungal growth around their muzzle, ears and wing membranes. There is evidence that American bats are less immunologically resistant to WNS than their European counterparts. G. destructans may have wiped out many bats in Europe in the distant past and today's survivors can withstand the fungus.

It is not known how the fungus kills the bat, but it has been proposed that mortality is caused by wing damage [3]. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center, in partnership with various research groups, plays a vital role in WNS research in the United States [4] .

References and more to explore
[1] Gudrun Wibbelt et al.: White-Nose Syndrome Fungus (Geomyces destructans) in Bats, Europe. Emerging Infectious Diseases August 2010, 16 (8), 1237-1242. [].
[2] Michelle Nijhuis: Crisis in the Caves. Smithsonian July/August 2011, 42 (4), 55-74. [].
[3] P. M. Cryan et al.: Wing pathology of white-nose syndrome in bats suggests life-threatening disruption of physiology. BMC Biology 2010, 8:135. DOI: 10.1186/1741-7007-8-135.
[4] National Wildlife Health Center: White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) [].

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