Energy conserving thermoregulatory patterns and lower disease severity in a bat resistant to the impacts of white-nose syndrome
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The devastating bat fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS), does not appear to affect all species equally. To experimentally determine susceptibility differences between species, we exposed hibernating naïve little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) to the fungus that causes WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). After hibernating under identical conditions, Pd lesions were significantly more prevalent and more severe in little brown myotis. This species difference in pathology correlates with susceptibility to WNS in the wild and suggests that survival is related to different host physiological responses. We observed another fungal infection, associated with neutrophilic inflammation, that was equally present in all bats. This suggests that both species are capable of generating a response to cold tolerant fungi and that Pd may have evolved mechanisms for evading host responses that are effective in at least some bat species. These host–pathogen interactions are likely mediated not just by host physiological responses, but also by host behavior. Pd-exposed big brown bats, the less affected species, spent more time in torpor than did control animals, while little brown myotis did not exhibit this change. This differential thermoregulatory response to Pd infection by big brown bat hosts may allow for a more effective (or less pathological) immune response to tissue invasion.
KeywordsWhite-nose syndrome Pseudogymnoascus destructans Myotis lucifugus Eptesicus fuscus Fungal pathogen Species differences
This study was supported by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (F11AP00073 to DMR) and the National Science Foundation (DEB-1115895 to WFF and JTF). MSM was partially supported by the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (K12GM102778). We thank Cindy Rhone and Gretchen Long for animal care assistance and Kevin Keel for providing P. destructans isolate used for inoculations.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of Bucknell University (see “Materials and methods” for further description).
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