|In white nose syndrome, Pseudogymnoascus destructans can be found growing on the muzzle, wing, and ear of bats, in this case, a little brown bat.|
Minnis & Lindner (2013)
Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly known as Geomyces destructans) is a psychrophilic (cold-loving) fungus that causes white nose syndrome (WNS), a fatal disease that has decimated bat populations in parts of the United States and Canada. Unlike other species of Geomyces, Pseudogymnoascus destructans forms asymmetrically curved conidia. Pseudogymnoascus destructans grows very slowly in artificial media and cannot grow at temperatures above 24 °C. It has optimal growth around 4 °C to 15 °C, which is about the same temperature of winter bat hibernacula. Phylogenic evaluation has revealed this organism should be reclassified under the family Pseudeurotiaceae, changing its name to Pseudogymnoascus destructans.
Role in WNS
Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the causal agent of the deadly white-nose syndrome in bats. The fungus was definitively identified as the cause of the syndrome in bats, according to research published in 2011 by scientists at the United States Geological Survey. It was previously unknown whether Pseudogymnoascus destructans was the primary cause of WNS or was an opportunistic pathogen associated with the disease, though strong evidence suggested that the fungus was the etiologic agent. Though it has mostly been found in bats in northeastern United States, this fungus has also infected bats in Europe. In 2010, Pseudogymnoascus destructans was found in Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary in five species of bats. Also in 2010, it was reported that Pseudogymnoascus destructans was widespread in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It has also been found on a bat in France.
In WNS, the hyphae and conida of the fungus can be found on the bat's snout, wing membrane, and/or ears. The fungus can penetrate into the hair follicles and sebaceous glands, and lead to ulcers in the skin.
In 2008, Blehart et al. described the fungus associated with white nose syndrome as a member of the genus Geomyces. In 2009, Gargas et al. were the first to describe the fungus as a unique species.
In North America, Pseudogymnoascus destructans has been found to infect at least six species of bats, including the little brown (Myotis lucifugus), the northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis), the big brown (Eptesicus fuscus), the tricolored (Perimyotis subflavus), the eastern small-footed (Myotis leibii), and the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis).
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