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White-nose syndrome

White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been associated with the deaths of millions of bats in the USA (32 states) and Canada (seven 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.  WNS and bat hibernation area 30 August 2018 (

Bats with WNS

 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 and has now been isolated from many others at sites across the Midlands, South and East of England through a variety of surveillance work. Like the rest of Europe, there have been no cases of WNS in the UK. Please do take a look at the frequently asked questions page for more information.

WNS guidelines for bat workers and bat carers are available.  BCT also has a general information leaflet aimed at cavers and other subterranean explorers about Bats Underground.

The positive cases have been found as a result of an on-going passive surveillance programme and two active surveillance projects. All positive samples are from sites in the Midlands, South-East and East of England.

With the presence 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:

  1. To prevent the North American strain from reaching European bat hibernacula,

  2. To monitor European hibernacula for the presence of fungi growing on bats,

  3. To refer any such fungi for appropriate mycological investigation,

  4. 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.

Find out more

Bats Underground (297 KB) - 01/12/16
This two-page publication is intended as a guide for all those who might come across bats underground. It explains why bats use underground sites and how those visiting them can support bat conservation by being aware of bats and the issues related to them.

WNS Guidance for Bat Carers (3 MB) - 05/12/17
Guidance on WNS and Pd in the UK and what to look out for with bats in care over the winter, and what to do if a suspect bat is found.

WNS Guidance for Bat Workers (5 MB) - 05/12/17
Guidance on WNS in the UK and what to look out for during hibernation checks and what to do if a suspect bat is found

Online white-nose syndrome report form

Hibernation surveys

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