Threatened Bats and Gifted Bugs:
Can natural cave bacteria help stop White-Nose Syndrome?
Joshua A.V. Blodgett, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology
Moderated by: Cynthia Wichelman, M.D.
Insect-eating bats are thought to contribute ~$23 billion annually to the US economy through insecticide-free pest control. However, an introduced fungal disease called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) now seriously threatens many North American insectivorous bat species, with some diminishing towards extinction. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes WNS, weakens and kills bats during winter hibernation. The disease spread rapidly from its New York epicenter in 2006, to the eastern US and Canada. The disease has since spread to mid-western states—including Missouri—and disastrously surfaced on the Pacific Coast, as well. Collapsing bat populations makes controlling WNS critically important, and there is limited time for science to innovate solutions. The Blodgett Lab at Washington University is exploring naturally occurring cave microbes as a potential means for disrupting WNS infection cycles, toward preserving bat populations. This talk will present an overview of several WNS control strategies, describe what the Blodgett Lab has discovered thus far, and discuss how early results could complement ongoing efforts to save the bats.
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