The devastating bat fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS), does not appear to affect all species equally. To experimentally determine susceptibility differences between species, we exposed hibernating naïve little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) to the fungus that causes WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). After hibernating under identical conditions, Pd lesions were significantly more prevalent and more severe in little brown myotis. This species difference in pathology correlates with susceptibility to WNS in the wild and suggests that survival is related to different host physiological responses. We observed another fungal infection, associated with neutrophilic inflammation, that was equally present in all bats. This suggests that both species are capable of generating a response to cold tolerant fungi and that Pd may have evolved mechanisms for evading host responses that are effective in at least some bat species. These host–pathogen interactions are likely mediated not just by host physiological responses, but also by host behavior. Pd-exposed big brown bats, the less affected species, spent more time in torpor than did control animals, while little brown myotis did not exhibit this change. This differential thermoregulatory response to Pd infection by big brown bat hosts may allow for a more effective (or less pathological) immune response to tissue invasion.
|Date made available||2018|