Monday, September 13, 2010

Help For Bats May Be On The Way

Scientists in New York State say they have a few ideas on how to help stop the spread of a fungal disease that has been killing hundreds of thousands of bats in New York and Pennsylvania. White-nose Syndrome manifests itself as a patch of furry looking fungus on a bat’s nose. It is unclear how the fungus leads to the bat’s death, but it is believed to be responsible for massive die-offs in some colonies. As many as one million bats may be infected in caves as far south as Tennessee. Researchers working for the New York Department of Health think they have found several drugs that can fight the syndrome, and antiseptics might help decontaminate hibernacula and stop the spread of the fungus. Health Department spokesperson Peter Constantakes says they are now looking to try out some of their lab-proven efforts in the wild. “We don’t want to go too quickly; sometimes some promising things don’t actually work out in the field,” says Constantakes, “so what we would do is try to find a cave that we know is infected but does not have a lot of bats and use some of the decontamination things there and see how they work.” Cost is also an issue. Constantakes says they are looking at low cost solutions, including the use of a drug used to combat athletes’ foot that can be applied fairly inexpensively. However, researchers are also looking at drugs that have to be injected. Constantakes says, “What the idea is, if we can get some healthy bats and treat them with this then help them from catching the disease, the bat population can survive and multiply.” The New York Department of Health is working with researchers at the federal level and in several other impacted states. Pennsylvania has taken several steps to help stop the spread of White-nose Syndrome including a decision to limit human exploration in caves. The state has also tested some anti-fungal agents, but results have not been published.

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