Indexed on: 19 Oct '10Published on: 19 Oct '10Published in: Mycologia
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging disease causing unprecedented morbidity and mortality among bats in eastern North America. The disease is characterized by cutaneous infection of hibernating bats by the psychrophilic fungus Geomyces destructans. Detection of G. destructans in environments occupied by bats will be critical for WNS surveillance, management and characterization of the fungal lifecycle. We initiated an rRNA gene region-based molecular survey to characterize the distribution of G. destructans in soil samples collected from bat hibernacula in the eastern United States with an existing PCR test. Although this test did not specifically detect G. destructans in soil samples based on a presence/absence metric, it did favor amplification of DNA from putative Geomyces species. Cloning and sequencing of PCR products amplified from 24 soil samples revealed 74 unique sequence variants representing 12 clades. Clones with exact sequence matches to G. destructans were identified in three of 19 soil samples from hibernacula in states where WNS is known to occur. Geomyces destructans was not identified in an additional five samples collected outside the region where WNS has been documented. This study highlights the diversity of putative Geomyces spp. in soil from bat hibernacula and indicates that further research is needed to better define the taxonomy of this genus and to develop enhanced diagnostic tests for rapid and specific detection of G. destructans in environmental samples.