White-nose syndrome (WNS) represents an emerging infectious disease in bats caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). The fatal disease has devastated populations of several species of bats in North America, so there is interest in delimiting its current range to aid containment and other management efforts. Early detection of the fungus aids in risk assessment of the disease and managing its presence in areas with hibernating bats. Infection by Pd in bats has been neither surveyed nor reported in Louisiana, despite the fact that WNS has been recorded approximately 150 km across the border of two neighboring states, Arkansas and Mississippi. Between December 2015 and January 2016, we surveyed 190 culverts distributed across the northern portion of Louisiana. In total, we encountered 801 individual bats (355 Perimyotis subflavus, 299 Myotis, 54 Eptesicus fuscus, 47 Tadarida brasiliensis, and 46 Corynorhinus rafinesquii). We used ultraviolet illumination to inspect each individual for presence of WNS symptoms, and no visible symptoms were detected. We also swabbed the skin of 244 bats and 316 habitat walls, and swabs were returned to the laboratory and analyzed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and Pd-specific primers for presence of the pathogen. No genetic detections occurred in any bat or habitat wall samples. Based on negative detection, we hypothesize that the fungus has not yet been introduced into the state of Louisiana or the environmental conditions of culverts found in Louisiana are not conducive to persistence of the fungus; however, ours is the first survey to assess the status of Pd in the state. Monitoring should continue to confirm that no evidence of the fungal pathogen exists anywhere in the state and to enable rapid response if detection occurs.
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Vol. 63 • No. 4