White-Nose Syndrome in Hibernating Bats

  • Gudrun WibbeltEmail author


White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease exclusively found in hibernating bats. The causative agent, Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans (Pd), is a psychrophilic fungus, which doesn’t tolerate temperatures above 24 °C. Since the emergence of this formerly unknown pathogen in 2006 in Northeastern America, it has killed millions of bats. The infection is limited to the skin with a rather characteristic growth appearance of white powdery patches around the muzzle of the bats, but white fungal aerial hyphae are also found on ears and particularly wing membranes. Confirmation of the disease requires histopathological investigations with proof of hallmark lesions, i.e. cup-like erosions containing fungal hyphae and invasion of the dermal connective tissue. Evidence of typical asymmetrically curved conidia or nucleic acids of Pd is considered only suspicious for WNS. Subsequent search for the fungus in Europe and Asia found the fungus to be enzootic and causing similar pathological lesions, but it is not associated with fatalities. Molecular investigations revealed a single clonal genotype for North America, while European isolates diversified. However, the most common haplotype in Europe is shared with the North American strain providing strong support for the hypothesis of an introduction of Pd from Europe into a naïve bat population in North America. Despite 10 years of intensive research, the chain of causation in the pathogenesis of WNS leading to the death of the animals is still not satisfactorily answered.


Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans Psychrophilic Chiroptera Bats Hibernation Mortality Skin Epidermis Epizootic 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife DiseasesLeibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany

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