The Palearctic view on a bat fungal disease

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Flora Whiting-Fawcett, Anna Sofia Blomberg, Tanya Troitsky, Ken Field, Sébastien Puechmaille, Thomas Mikael Lilley


The fungal infection causing white-nose disease in hibernating bats in North America has resulted in dramatic population declines of affected species since it was first discovered in 2007. Shortly after, it was demonstrated that the causative agent, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is native to the Palearctic, where it also infects several bat species. However, infection in the Palearctic rarely leads to severe pathology or the death of the host, suggestive of a lengthy coevolution between the host and pathogen. An understanding of the unique relationship between the host, the pathogen and the environment in the Palearctic can provide valuable insights into how the epizootic may continue to develop in the Nearctic, and how to effectively manage the disease. The local extirpation and changes in conservation status of affected species in North America has triggered a surge of research across a plethora of fields in bat and fungal biology, in both North America and Eurasia. Here, we summarise current knowledge on the fungal infection, from how P. destructans infects bats, to the delicate interplay between the pathogen, host and the environment, and to how individuals, species and populations respond to the fungal pathogen. We conclude on how tolerance is likely manifested in Palearctic bat species and whether there is potential for the development of tolerance in the Nearctic. We conclude with a systematic review of current literature on the management of the disease in North America and how it could best benefit from knowledge garnered from Eurasia. Our essay encourages policymakers and conservation managers to take a more holistic consideration of the epizootic.



Animal Sciences, Biology, Immunology and Infectious Disease, Life Sciences, Zoology


Host-pathogen interaction, fungal disease, immune response, conservation actions,  coevolution, fungal disease, immune response, conservation actions, coevolution


Published: 2023-12-08 10:58

Last Updated: 2023-12-08 10:58


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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