Rapid Real-Time PCR Assay for Culture and Tissue Identification of Geomyces destructans: the Etiologic Agent of Bat Geomycosis (White Nose Syndrome)
Geomyces destructans is the etiologic agent of bat geomycosis, commonly referred to as white nose syndrome (WNS). This infection has caused severe morbidity and mortality in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and has also spread to other bat species with significant decline in the populations. Currently, G. destructans infection is identified by culture, ITS–PCR, and histopathology. We hypothesized that a real-time PCR assay would considerably improve detection of G. destructans in bats. The 100 bp sequence of the Alpha-L-Rhamnosidase gene was validated as a target for real-time PCR. The assay sensitivity was determined from serial dilution of DNA extracted from G. destructans conidia (5 × 10−1–5 × 107), and the specificity was tested using DNA from 30 closely and distantly related fungi and 5 common bacterial pathogens. The real-time PCR assay was highly sensitive with detection limit of two G. destructans conidia per reaction at 40 PCR cycles. The assay was also highly specific as none of the other fungal or bacterial DNA cross-reacted in the real-time PCR assay. One hundred and forty-seven bat tissue samples, suspected of infection with G. destructans, were used to compare the real-time PCR assay to other methods employed for the detection of G. destructans. Real-time PCR was highly sensitive with 80 of 147 (55%) samples testing positive for G. destructans DNA. In comparison, histopathology examination revealed 64/147 (44%) positive samples. The internal transcribed spacer (ITS)–PCR yielded positive amplicon for G. destructans from 37 tissue samples (25%). The least sensitive assay was the fungal culture with only 17 tissue samples (12%) yielding G. destructans in culture. The data suggested that the real-time PCR assay is highly promising for rapid, sensitive, and specific identification of G. destructans. Further trials and inter-laboratory comparisons of this novel assay are recommended to improve the diagnosis of bat geomycosis.
KeywordsGeomyces destructans Geomycosis Real-time PCR White nose syndrome
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