Experimental Infection of Tadarida brasiliensis with Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the Fungus That Causes White-Nose Syndrome.mSphere. 2018 08 29; 3(4)M
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is causing significant declines in populations of North American hibernating bats, and recent western and southern expansions of the disease have placed additional species at risk. Understanding differences in species susceptibility and identifying management actions to reduce mortality of bats from WNS are top research priorities. However, the use of wild-caught susceptible bats, such as Myotis lucifugus, as model species for WNS research is problematic and places additional pressure on remnant populations. We investigated the feasibility of using Tadarida brasiliensis, a highly abundant species of bat that tolerates captivity, as the basis for an experimental animal model for WNS. Using methods previously established to confirm the etiology of WNS in M. lucifugus, we experimentally infected 11 T. brasiliensis bats with Pseudogymnoascus destructans in the laboratory under conditions that induced hibernation. We detected P. destructans on all 11 experimentally infected bats, 7 of which exhibited localized proliferation of hyphae within the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue, similar to invasive cutaneous ascomycosis observed in M. lucifugus bats with WNS. However, the distribution of lesions across wing membranes of T. brasiliensis bats was limited, and only one discrete "cupping erosion," diagnostic for WNS, was identified. Thus, the rarity of lesions definitive for WNS suggests that T. brasiliensis does not likely represent an appropriate model for studying the pathophysiology of this disease. Nonetheless, the results of this study prompt questions concerning the potential for free-ranging, migratory T. brasiliensis bats to become infected with P. destructans and move the fungal pathogen between roost sites used by species susceptible to WNS.IMPORTANCE White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease that is causing severe declines of bat populations in North America. Identifying ways to reduce the impacts of this disease is a priority but is inhibited by the lack of an experimental animal model that does not require the use of wild-caught bat species already impacted by WNS. We tested whether Tadarida brasiliensis, one of the most abundant species of bats in the Americas, could serve as a suitable animal model for WNS research. While T. brasiliensis bats were susceptible to experimental infection with the fungus under conditions that induced hibernation, the species exhibited limited pathology diagnostic for WNS. These results indicate that T. brasiliensis is not likely a suitable experimental model for WNS research. However, the recovery of viable WNS-causing fungus from experimentally infected bats indicates a potential for this species to contribute to the spread of the pathogen where it coexists with other species of bats affected by WNS.