Experimental inoculation trial to determine the effects of temperature and humidity on White-nose Syndrome in hibernating bats

Abstract

Disease results from interactions among the host, pathogen, and environment. Inoculation trials can quantify interactions among these players and explain aspects of disease ecology to inform management in variable and dynamic natural environments. White-nose Syndrome, a disease caused by the fungal pathogen, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), has caused severe population declines of several bat species in North America. We conducted the first experimental infection trial on the tri-colored bat, Perimyotis subflavus, to test the effect of temperature and humidity on disease severity. We also tested the effects of temperature and humidity on fungal growth and persistence on substrates. Unexpectedly, only 37% (35/95) of bats experimentally inoculated with Pd at the start of the experiment showed any infection response or disease symptoms after 83 days of captive hibernation. There was no evidence that temperature or humidity influenced infection response. Temperature had a strong effect on fungal growth on media plates, but the influence of humidity was more variable and uncertain. Designing laboratory studies to maximize research outcomes would be beneficial given the high costs of such efforts and potential for unexpected outcomes. Understanding the influence of microclimates on host–pathogen interactions remains an important consideration for managing wildlife diseases, particularly in variable environments.

Description

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

Keywords

disease ecology, bat species, fungal growth, captive hibernation, microclimates

Citation

Frick, W.F., Johnson, E., Cheng, T.L. et al. Experimental inoculation trial to determine the effects of temperature and humidity on White-nose Syndrome in hibernating bats. Sci Rep 12, 971 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-04965-x

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