WNS Probiotic Project

 

Cutting edge research to develop, apply, and test the effectiveness of a probiotic formulated from naturally occurring soil/bat-wing microbes to help bats survive effects of white-nose syndrome.

 

The Project:

We know, from the findings in eastern North America, that some bat species are more impacted by WNS than other species.  While it is not clear which factors affect vulnerability to this disease, wing microbiome is thought to play a significant role.

Using bacteria sourced from local healthy bats, we have derived a probiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of white-nose syndrome (WNS), the fungal disease poised to devastate western North American bat populations. This probiotic cocktail is a strategic combination of 4 bacterial strains shown to inhibit the disease-causing fungus (referred to as Pd). These bacteria naturally occur on some bat’s wings in western Canada. Our ‘Robinhood Approach’ aims to provide vulnerable building-roosting bats, who may rarely come in contact with natural soils, with these beneficial bacteria.

Now that we have successfully tested this probiotic on captive building roosting bats (2018-19), we have concluded that it is effective at changing bat wing microbiomes and slows the growth of the Pd fungus. Over the past 2 years, through collaboration with UBC Okanagan, we have been preparing for the implementation of this mitigation tool by establishing baseline data at 4 large maternity roosts in Metro-Vancouver.  This will enable us to compare bat ecology and health pre- and post-treatment with the WNS prophylaxis. In August 2019 at two maternity roosts in the Vancouver region, we  conducted a pilot field application providing this new wing probiotic to bats just prior to when they left for hibernation. By applying the natural probiotic cocktail to their roost substrates, we armed these bats with an enhanced anti-WNS wing flora which we anticipate will delay or prevent Pd growth for a long enough portion of the winter to increase survival of the WNS disease should they encounter the fungus at their hibernaculum.

.

 

“Probiotics aren't just a human health fad – naturally occurring Western Canada bat probiotics and their medicinal properties may be the best way to stop white-nose syndrome wiping out North America's bats”. New Scientist.



Funders and Collaborators:

This project is made possible by the generous funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Fund Coastal Region (BC Hydro), British Columbia Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy, British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Thompson Rivers University, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

This project is a collaboration between WCS Canada (Dr. Cori Lausen), Thompson Rivers University (Dr. Naowarat Cheeptham) with MSc. student Nick Fontaine, McMaster University (Dr. Jianping Xu), and University of British Columbia-Okanagan (Dr. Karen Hodges) with MSc. student Leah Rensel with assistance from UBC (Dr. Julian Davies) and a steering committee consisting of biologists and veterinarians from the government of BC (Dr. Helen Schwantje, Dr. Glenna McGregor, Dr. Purnima Govindarajulu, and Orville Dyer), TRU (Dr. David Sedgman), and University of Winnipeg (Dr. Craig Willis, Dr. Yvonne Dzal).  For facilitating the captive bat trials we thank the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops; and for logistical support we thank BC Parks, Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band, Neskonlith Indian Band, and Kwantlen First Nation.

Links to articles:

Western Producer. 2019. Solution Proposed to Fight Bat Disease Threat

CBC News. August 2019.  Fighting a Bat Killer: BC Scientists Testing New Way to Protect Against Deadly Killer.  

New Scientist (ONLINE): The yogurt cure: can ‘good’ bacteria save bats? 

Photo credits: Header photo--Aaron Wong;  Centre Mosiac- Cori Lausen, Aaron Wong

©2019-2020 Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS, the "W" logo, WE STAND FOR WILDLIFE, I STAND FOR WILDLIFE, and STAND FOR WILDLIFE are service marks of Wildlife Conservation Society.

Contact Information
Address: Western Canada Bat Conservation Program; Kaslo, British Columbia | wcsbats@wcs.org |