Last week an announcement was made that a group of bats were successfully treated for White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) and released at the Mark Twain Cave Complex in Hannibal, Missouri. This is a momentous occasion in the world of conservation where good news can be rare. My post is based on the blog post from The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science Blog, “Bananas to Bats: The Science Behind the First Bats Successfully Treated for White-Nose Syndrome” http://blog.nature.org/science/2015/05/27/bananas-to-bats-the-science-behind-the-first-bats-successfully-treated-for-white-nose-syndrome/
The infected bats were treated with a bacterium that releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which impedes fungal growth. Researchers at Georgia State University used this bacterium on fruit to delay the ripening process and molding. The bacterium was eventually tested on WNS and a treatment was developed through a collaboration with the US Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Bat Conservation International. It is not a silver bullet, it is not a cure but it can help control WNS. Individual bats were treated in preliminary trials but there are plans to develop a delivery system for caves.
For those folks out there who have not heard of WNS, it is a disease that has killed 5-6 million bats in the United States and Canada and it is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The fungus primarily infects the muzzle (thus white-nose) and wings and spreads through direct contact among hibernating bats. Mortality rates in an infected hibernacula can be as high as 78-100%. For more detailed information please see the links below.
My Illustration: The basis of my illustration came from the possibility of treating an entire cave. It also came from a quote from a researcher in the Cool Green Science post who compared this future delivery system to the commercial grade room fresheners used in hotels. So the image came to me of a cave freshener that worked in the manner of the car fresheners hung on rear view mirrors that also smelled of bananas as a nod to the original research that led to this awesome development.
US Forest Service Announcement: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/news/release/wns-treated-bats-released
Bat Conservation International White-Nose Syndrome Page: http://www.batcon.org/index.php/our-work/regions/usa-canada/address-serious-threats/wns-intro