Date of Award
Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Henk C den Bakker
Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) is a fungal pathogen that has been spreading in North American bats since its initial discovery in 2006. P. destructans is the causative agent of white-nose syndrome (WNS), a disease leading to as much as a 90% decrease in some eastern United States bat populations, with select hibernacula experiencing complete extirpation of the hibernating population. To date, there is no effective scaled probiotic for WNS, but probiotics inoculums have shown success in the management of other recently emerged fungal pathogens of wildlife, such as chytridiomycosis in amphibians. Host microbiomes have come under investigation in other disease systems for their perceived connection with pathogen colonization and disease severity across taxa. This research focused on characterizing the microbiome of tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) across surface-based (i.e.: manmade bridges and culverts) and subterranean hibernacula. Tri-colored bats have been documented living in anthropogenic structures (e.g.: culverts, bridges) which maintain temperatures consistent with Pd growth requirements, yet have not been classified as having WNS. Because built environments are correlated with altered host microbiomes, I worked to determine how the microbiome shifted between the two environment types. In this study, bat samples in subterranean environments were correlated with less microbial diversity. When sampling species present in the microbiome, bacteria were able to inhibit the growth of P. destructans when co-cultured. Across a shared airspace assay, bacteria actually promoted the growth of P. destructans, potentially due to a process called hormesis.
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