A new study shows that vaccination may reduce the impact of white-nose syndrome in bats, marking a milestone in the international fight against one of the most destructive wildlife diseases in modern times.
“This is a significant step forward in developing control mechanisms to combat the devastating spread of white-nose syndrome in our important bat populations,” said USGS Director Jim Reilly. “Being able to deliver an oral vaccine during hibernation could be a game changer in our ability to combat one of the deadliest wildlife diseases in modern times.”
White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus called Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or Pd, and has killed millions of North American bats since 2006. The disease is spreading rapidly and there is no cure. Recent studies by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources demonstrated that bats immunized against Pd were less likely to develop WNS or die from the disease in two initial scientific trials. Results were published today in the journal Scientific Reports.
“Insect-eating bats are incredibly valuable, saving the U.S. agricultural industry billions of dollars in pest control services every year,” said USGS scientist Tonie Rocke, who led the team involved in vaccine development. “Our initial studies suggest that an effective vaccine could be a critical step towards conserving North America’s bat populations.”
During the trials, scientists administered several vaccine formulas to little brown bats prior to Pd exposure and hibernation. They found that bats vaccinated orally or by injection survived at a higher rate than unimmunized bats. The bats also developed specific anti-fungal immune responses. Although work is still progressing to select the best vaccine candidates, the findings suggest that vaccination could potentially protect bats or reduce the effects of white-nose syndrome by providing them with immunity against Pd.
Read more at USGS
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