Pathophysiology of white-nose syndrome in bats: a mechanistic model linking wing damage to mortality

Biol Lett. 2013 May 29;9(4):20130177. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0177. Print 2013 Aug 23.


White-nose syndrome is devastating North American bat populations but we lack basic information on disease mechanisms. Altered blood physiology owing to epidermal invasion by the fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans (Gd) has been hypothesized as a cause of disrupted torpor patterns of affected hibernating bats, leading to mortality. Here, we present data on blood electrolyte concentration, haematology and acid-base balance of hibernating little brown bats, Myotis lucifugus, following experimental inoculation with Gd. Compared with controls, infected bats showed electrolyte depletion (i.e. lower plasma sodium), changes in haematology (i.e. increased haematocrit and decreased glucose) and disrupted acid-base balance (i.e. lower CO2 partial pressure and bicarbonate). These findings indicate hypotonic dehydration, hypovolaemia and metabolic acidosis. We propose a mechanistic model linking tissue damage to altered homeostasis and morbidity/mortality.

Keywords: Geomyces destructans; dehydration; hibernation; hypovolemia; plasma electrolytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium*
  • Animals
  • Ascomycota / pathogenicity*
  • Ascomycota / physiology
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Chiroptera* / blood
  • Dehydration / microbiology
  • Dehydration / physiopathology
  • Hematocrit
  • Hypovolemia / microbiology
  • Hypovolemia / physiopathology
  • Manitoba
  • Mycoses / microbiology
  • Mycoses / physiopathology*
  • Starvation / microbiology
  • Starvation / physiopathology
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / microbiology
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / physiopathology*
  • Wings, Animal / microbiology
  • Wings, Animal / pathology*


  • Blood Glucose