Phylogenetics of a fungal invasion: Origins and widespread dispersal of white-nose syndrome

Kevin P. Drees, Jeffrey M. Lorch, Sebastien J. Puechmaill, Katy L. Parise, Gudrun Wibbelt, Joseph R. Hoyt, Keping Sun, Ariunbold Jargalsaikhan, Munkhnast Dalannast, Jonathan M. Palmer, Daniel L. Lindner, A. Marm Kilpatrick, Talima Pearson, Paul S. Keim, David S. Blehert, Jeffrey T. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Globalization has facilitated the worldwide movement and introduction of pathogens, but epizoological reconstructions of these invasions are often hindered by limited sampling and insufficient genetic resolution among isolates. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, a fungal pathogen causing the epizootic of white-nose syndrome in North American bats, has exhibited few genetic polymorphisms in previous studies, presenting challenges for both epizoological tracking of the spread of this fungus and for determining its evolutionary history. We used single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from whole-genome sequencing and microsatellites to construct high-resolution phylogenies of P. destructans. Shallow genetic diversity and the lack of geographic structuring among North American isolates support a recent introduction followed by expansion via clonal reproduction across the epizootic zone. Moreover, the genetic relationships of isolates within North America suggest widespread mixing and long-distance movement of the fungus. Genetic diversity among isolates of P. destructans from Europe was substantially higher than in those from North America. However, genetic distance between the North American isolates and any given European isolate was similar to the distance between the individual European isolates. In contrast, the isolates we examined from Asia were highly divergent from both European and North American isolates. Although the definitive source for introduction of the North American population has not been conclusively identified, our data support the origin of the North American invasion by P. destructans from Europe rather than Asia. IMPORTANCE This phylogenetic study of the bat white-nose syndrome agent, P. destructans, uses genomics to elucidate evolutionary relationships among populations of the fungal pathogen to understand the epizoology of this biological invasion. We analyze hypervariable and abundant genetic characters (microsatellites and genomic SNPs, respectively) to reveal previously uncharacterized diversity among populations of the pathogen from North America and Eurasia. We present new evidence supporting recent introduction of the fungus to North America from a diverse Eurasian population, with limited increase in genetic variation in North America since that introduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01941-17
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Chiroptera
  • Emerging infectious disease
  • Epizootic
  • Microsatellite
  • Pseudogymnoascus destructans
  • Whole-genome sequencing
  • Wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Phylogenetics of a fungal invasion: Origins and widespread dispersal of white-nose syndrome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this