Fighting the Bat Plague

As part of Detroit Public Television’s ongoing commitment to telling important stories related to our environment, this new video about the plight affecting bats in Michigan will bring attention to a deadly disease that’s threatening the survival of this important species.

Dr. Maarten Vonhof is an evolutionary biologist at Western Michigan University who specializes in the study of bats. He is actively developing a new approach to controlling White-Nose Syndrome, a deadly disease that has destroyed six million bats in the eastern United States. Dr. Vonhof hopes that chitosan (kai-to-san), a naturally occurring anti-fungal and wound-healing agent will be the magic bullet that will slow the rapid westward spread of White-Nose Syndrome.

By exposing bats hibernating in an artificial environment to White-Nose Syndrome, then treating them at different intervals with chitosan, Dr. Vonhof hopes to discover a way to stabilize bat populations in Michigan and nationwide before they are wiped out. At the same time, researchers in the field are also working to understand how White-Nose Syndrome is spread from bat-to-bat and how a control agent like chitosan effectively deployed when it is ready for a field trial.

Originally aired October 21st, 2016 on SciTech Now

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