Scientists Identify Drugs for Bat Disease

NEW YORK, Oct. 1 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say existing anti-fungal compounds could be used to protect bats from a disease that has caused the death of tens of thousands of the creatures.

The disease, known as White Nose syndrome, has killed huge numbers of bats in upstate New York and Northeastern states, scientists at the New York State Department of Health said in a release.

Since 2006, mass deaths have been recorded in North American hibernating bat populations.

Bats play an important role in environmental and human health by controlling insect populations that can carry West Nile virus and other potentially fatal diseases. A single bat can consume more than 3,000 mosquitoes on a single summer night, researchers say.

White Nose syndrome is a cottony, fungal growth that has been found around the snout and wings of hibernating bats and depletes their fat reserves months before normal springtime emergence, causing the bats to starve to death.

Health Department researchers screened the fungus to determine its sensitivity to anti-fungal drugs used to treat human and animal infections.

The study found certain drugs that are widely used to treat common human infections such as athlete’s foot were highly effective in controlling fungus growth under laboratory conditions.

“Our extensive studies have found a good source of compounds that may have potential use in protecting bats and preventing the transmission of a deadly wildlife disease,” Vishnu Chaturvedi, a member of the research team, said.

“Our work is designed to develop effective control measures to treat affected bats, decontaminate areas infected with the fungus, and maintain a healthy environment.”

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