White-nose syndrome is an emerging infectious disease that has led to a dramatic decline in cave-hibernating bat species. White-nose syndrome is caused by the newly described fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans, which infects the ear, muzzle, and wing membranes of bats. Although the exact mechanism by which the fungus causes death is not yet understood, G. destructans leads to a high mortality rate in infected animals. While the primary mechanism of infection appears to be bat-to-bat transfer, it is still unclear what role human activity may play in the spread of this pathogen. Here we evaluate the effectiveness of decontamination protocols that can be utilized by speleologists to reduce the likelihood of spreading this dangerous pathogen to naïve bats or uninfected hibernacula. Our results show that pre-cleaning to remove muds and/ or sediments followed by the use of commercially available disinfectants can effectively remove G. destructans from caving fabrics. Alternatively, immersion in water above 50 uC for at least 20 minutes effectively destroys the fungal spores. These results have allowed the development of a decontamination protocol (http://www.fws.gov/ WhiteNoseSyndrome/cavers.html) that, when appropriately followed, can greatly reduce the likelihood of the human mediated transfer of G. destructans from an infected to uninfected site.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes