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A short dose of ultraviolet light might save North America’s bats

Researchers have found that the fungus that has been decimating bat populations in the eastern United States for the past decade is easily killed by a short dose of ultraviolet light.

Upon being compared to six non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus species, it was found that P. destructans lacks a key enzyme that allows it to repair DNA damage caused by ultraviolet light. When samples of the fungus were exposed to a low dose of UV-C light from a handheld source, the survival rate was only about 15 percent – this dropped to less than 1 percent when the dose was moderate. In both cases, the duration of exposure was a matter of no more than a few seconds.

Next comes a control group experiment. If this proves true, than it might be possible to safely sterilize both bat populations and caves of the fungus. To work, however, the task will likely require repeated yearly visits to bat hibernation sites to kill the fungus before it causes the bats to wake up in the winter. Such visits have their own problems, and would be difficult to pay for. However, I am sure the caving community across the U.S. would be glad to volunteer for this effort, and could handle it.

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