Bacteria grown on bats to help fight deadly fungus

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Washington, April 11 (IANS) A particular bacteria growing naturally on the skin of some bats may help fighting white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus that continues to cripple bat populations.

The fungus behind white-nose syndrome, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, attacks a bat’s nose, ears, and wings during its hibernation.

At that time, the bat’s temperature remains very low allowing the bacteria to thrive.

The researchers tested bacteria from the skin of four bat species to see to what degree they could suppress white-nose syndrome.

Six of the bacteria extracted from the bats could inhibit significantly the growth of the fungus in petri dishes, while two were particularly successful at suppressing it for more than 35 days.

“What’s promising is that the bacteria that can inhibit the fungus naturally occur on the skin of bats,” said Joseph Hoyt, a student from University of California, Santa Cruz and lead author.

“These bacteria may just be at too low a level to have an effect on the disease, but augmenting them to higher abundances may provide a beneficial effect,” Hoyt noted.

A spray prepared from the white-nose-fighting bacteria could be applied to bats as they hibernate.

“We are analysing data from tests on live bats now, and if the results are positive, the next step would be a small field trial,” Hoyt concluded.

The study appeared in the journal Plos One.

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