Scientists say white-nose syndrome should be a research priority

An Editorial published in the upcoming February edition of Nature Reviews Microbiology outlines the devastating impact that white-nose syndrome is having on US bats and calls for immediate, increased research into the causes of the fungus’ pathogenicity.  Here at NRDC we have been advocating for additional funding resources for this type of research which is critical to understanding the nature of white-nose syndrome and how to devise strategies to limit or halt its spread.  While there are a number of dedicated scientists working hard to unravel this mystery, any one of them will tell you that they are limited by a lack of funding to conduct the necessary research.

In the summer of 2009, some of those scientists testified to congress that they would need on the order of $55 million to address the top research priorities for white-nose syndrome in the next five years.  Valiant championing for this cause by people like Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ), resulted in $1.9 million for white-nose syndrome research that year – helpful, to be certain, but far below the scientists’ estimated needs. This past year fared even worse with no funding specifically set aside for researching this disease.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has taken steps to recognize the threat posed by white-nose syndrome by dedicating staff to the issue and developing a draft national plan, but they are ultimately limited in their management options until we have the information we need to address this crisis.  That means more research, more quickly.

It’s significant that the scientific community has identified white-nose syndrome as a top research priority and helps build the case for increasing the funding available for this type of research.  As the scientists conclude in their editorial:  “The damage caused by these outbreaks to ecosystems and animal populations is enormous and will have a knock-on effect on agriculture, industry and, consequently, human health. Therefore, investigating these outbreaks and the pathogens should be the highest priority this year.”  We couldn’t agree more.

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Photo by Tolka Rover shared via Flickr.