US Bat Disease May Be From European Tourists

Cave explorers could have tracked it on their shoes: Scientists
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2012 5:12 PM CDT
US Bat Disease May Be From European Tourists
A little brown bat suffering from white-nose syndrome.   (AP Photo/New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ryan von Linden, File)

(Newser) – A disease that has decimated North American bat populations probably made its way here from Europe, researchers say. European bats haven't suffered the disease's disastrous effects, but some appear to be infected; they've probably developed resistance to the germs, scientists tell AFP. Experts exposed unaffected Canadian bats to strains of the disease from Europe and the US; those exposed to the European version began dying after 71 days, compared to 88 days for the American strain.

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The results are "really quite strong evidence" that the disease originated in Europe, says a scientist. "If anything the European version was a little bit nastier." The illness, which has killed some 6.7 million bats across 16 states and four Canadian provinces since 2006, may have been brought to the US by unsuspecting tourists. "We know the fungus can survive and persist in the environment on climbing equipment and on boots and shoes and those types of things, so it is possible that someone tracked it" into a cave in New York state where it was discovered. (Read more bats stories.)

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