White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been associated with the deaths of millions of bats in the USA (29 states) and Canada (five provinces), according to figures from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In some hibernation sites, numbers have declined by 80-100% since 2006, when the condition was first identified.
The video Battle For Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome shows what is being done in the United States to mitigate the effects of WNS on bat populations.
White-nose syndrome in Europe
The fungus asociated with WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (previously called Geomyces destructans), has also been identified on a number of bats in Europe, including the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and other countries. However, unlike in the USA, these findings have not been linked with mass mortalities and WNS has not been confirmed in Europe.
The situation in the UK
In 2013 the fungus was first isolated from a bat in the UK and from several environmental samples and in 2014 the fungus was isolated from a second bat. Like the rest of Europe, there have been no cases of WNS in the UK. Frequently asked questions.
The positive cases have been found as a result of an on-going passive surveillance programme and an active surveillance pilot project. All positive samples are from sites in the South-East and East of England.
With the discovery of the fungus in the UK as well as in many European countries, the issue of WNS remains high on BCT's agenda. Our main priorities in the UK are to continue to raise awareness of WNS amongst bat workers and other cave users and ensure mechanisms are in place to identify and respond to suspect and positive cases quickly. The positive results combined with the absence of mass mortalities and other symptoms of WNS in the UK, indicate that the situation here is likely to be similar to that in most of the rest of Europe where the fungus is present. It is thought probable by researchers that European bats have a resistance to the fungus, possibly evolved over thousands of years of exposure. In North America Pseudogymnoascus destructans is a novel pathogen and so native species do not have the same resistance to the fungus.
BCT worked with other organisations and researchers from the US and Europe to draft a Eurobats resolution. This resolution gives the key areas in which action is needed and will urge countries across Europe to comply. In particular the draft resolution recognises that action is needed:
To prevent the North American strain from reaching European bat hibernacula,
To monitor European hibernacula for the presence of fungi growing on bats,
To refer any such fungi for appropriate mycological investigation,
If bat deaths occur, to limit the spread of the fungus by human agency.
The draft resolution 6.7 Guidelines for the Prevention, Detection and Control of lethal fungal Infections in Bats can be viewed on the Eurobats website.