White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a fungal infection of bats caused by the psychrophilic fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans which was first described in 2006. The disease has since ravaged bat populations across North America, killing some species with up to a 90% mortality rate in infected hibernacula. Though the etiology and pathology of White Nose Syndrome are well characterized, the innate defenses of bats against this fungal infection remain poorly studied. In this series of experiments, I hypothesized that cutaneous lipid profiles high in inhibitory free fatty acids as well as their corresponding triacylglycerols could offer some protection against infection with Pseudogymnoascus destructans. While it was determined linoleic acid inhibits the growth of the fungus, and that exposure to pentadecanoic acid has long-term effects on the viability of the fungus, triacylglycerols did not have an effect on fungal growth. Finally, hibernation simulation experiments revealed that the decrease in overall FFA content contributes to the mortality of M. lucifugus by late hibernation. These studies have the potential to inform conservation policy and susceptibility screening of unexposed species as WNS moves across North America.
|Adviser||Craig L. Frank|
|Subjects||Biology; Ecology; Biochemistry|
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