White nose syndrome is a recently-discovered fungal disease that has been killing millions of bats across the United States in the last few years. The disease harms the bats by irritating their skin, waking them out of hibernation. This causes the bats to waste their stored energy, trying to eat and fly while it is still too cold. It is also believed that the infection may harm the bats' wings. It has been calculated that within the next two decades, several species of bats may be completely extinct because of this syndrome. Indiana bats (currently endangered), eastern pipistrelles, northern long-eared myotis, and little brown bats have all been recorded with the disease. It is estimated that 2.4 million pounds of bugs will go eaten because of the bat population decline.
New research however has shown the first sign of a possible cure. As white nose syndrome is well known to be a fungal infection, scientists recently began testing to see if human fungal eradicators could work on the bars as well. While research is still in preliminary stages, it has been found that many over the counter fungal medicines are beneficial in fighting against the infection. Methods of applying the new found knowledge are in discussion, as it is not known how different species of bats or caves may be affected.
The Indiana bat is perhaps most easily threatened species of bat, currently listed as endangered by the IUCN. The entire length of a bat is typically only one to two inches long. Since 1975, their population has been cut in half. They live an average of seven years and feed exclusively on insects. In addition to the recent onslaught of white nose syndrome, the bat has been threatened by predators (including their biggest predator, human beings), pesticide use, and forest decline.