Using a Novel Partitivirus in Pseudogymnoascus destructans to Understand the Epidemiology of White-Nose Syndrome

PLoS Pathog. 2016 Dec 27;12(12):e1006076. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006076. eCollection 2016 Dec.


White-nose syndrome is one of the most lethal wildlife diseases, killing over 5 million North American bats since it was first reported in 2006. The causal agent of the disease is a psychrophilic filamentous fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The fungus is widely distributed in North America and Europe and has recently been found in some parts of Asia, but interestingly, no mass mortality is observed in European or Asian bats. Here we report a novel double-stranded RNA virus found in North American isolates of the fungus and show that the virus can be used as a tool to study the epidemiology of White-nose syndrome. The virus, termed Pseudogymnoascus destructans partitivirus-pa, contains 2 genomic segments, dsRNA 1 and dsRNA 2 of 1.76 kbp and 1.59 kbp respectively, each possessing a single open reading frame, and forms isometric particles approximately 30 nm in diameter, characteristic of the genus Gammapartitivirus in the family Partitiviridae. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the virus is closely related to Penicillium stoloniferum virus S. We were able to cure P. destructans of the virus by treating fungal cultures with polyethylene glycol. Examination of 62 isolates of P. destructans including 35 from United States, 10 from Canada and 17 from Europe showed virus infection only in North American isolates of the fungus. Bayesian phylogenetic analysis using nucleotide sequences of the viral coat protein geographically clustered North American isolates indicating fungal spread followed by local adaptation of P. destructans in different regions of the United States and Canada. This is the first demonstration that a mycovirus potentially can be used to study fungal disease epidemiology.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Chiroptera / virology*
  • Fungal Viruses / genetics*
  • Mycoses / veterinary*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA Viruses / genetics*
  • Syndrome

Grant support

This work was supported by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the Huck Institute of Life Sciences and the College of Agricultural Science at Penn State University. Collection of New Brunswick isolates was made possible with funding from the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources, Parks Canada, and the National Speleological Society WNS Rapid Response Fund. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.