Postdoc Microbiologist/Molecular Biologist: Wisconsin
Agency University of Wisconsin, Department of Pathobiological Sciences
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Job Category Post Doctoral Appointments
Salary $47,476.00 (annual salary)
Last Date to Apply 12/31/2016
POST-DOCTORAL RESEARCH POSITION studying the mechanisms of resistance to white-nose syndrome (WNS), an emerging disease of bats caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Two years of funding is available through the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Pathobiological Sciences and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center located in Madison, WI. The primary objective of this project is to determine the biotic and abiotic properties of soil that reduce the abundance of infectious P. destructans in the environment. The specific objectives pertaining to WNS are to: 1) identify cave soils that suppress P. destructans, 2) characterize microbial communities and soil properties that may suppress P. destructans in the environment, and 3) investigate the potential to manipulate soils so that they are less conducive for the survival of P. destructans. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center conducts diagnostic work and research on numerous aspects of WNS and other wildlife diseases, and the selected candidate may have opportunities to work on additional projects as time and funding permit.
Qualified applicants should have a recent (last 1-3 years) Ph.D. with an emphasis in microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, or a similar discipline. Applicants must have 1) a record of research and publications, 2) experience with next-generation sequencing, metagenomics, and microbial community analyses, 3) proficiency with real-time PCR, 4) ability to work independently and solve project objectives with limited assistance, 5) good written and oral communication skills, 6) ability to work with other scientists, and 7) interest in disease ecology. Experience with culturing bacteria and fungi from environmental samples and/or analysis of soil properties is preferred but not required. Interested applicants should send a cover letter outlining experience, research interests, and relevant coursework; a curriculum vitae; and contact information for three references to Dr. Jeffrey Lorch, US Geological Survey – National Wildlife Health Center at firstname.lastname@example.org (please cc applications to Dr. Tony Goldberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison at email@example.com). Applicants should apply by December 31, 2016 to ensure consideration; however, applications will be accepted until position is filled.
Contact Person Jeffrey Lorch
Contact eMail firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of the dermatophyte efforts and emerging infectious diseases the Fungal Genome Initiative at the Broad Institute will be sequencing the genome of Geomyces destructans. G. destructans is linked to the white-nose syndrome in Bats.
See also some recent posts on white-nose syndrome.
A Brevia piece in Science today describes efforts to describe the causal agent in white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats which appears to be contributing to bat decline. According to the authors, previous work had described an uncharacterized fungus associated with bats that showed signs of being sick with WNS. This is an emerging pathogen as the samples described in this paper were from Spring 2008. Phylogenetic analysis of the rDNA (and presumably ITS) sequence of fungal isolates from diseased bats placed it as a Geomyces spp, in the Helotiales order (in the Leotiomycetes if you are wondering what are the closest sequenced fungal genomes for this species). Other Geomyces spp are also psychrophiles and found colonizing the skin of animals in cold climates (it must be hard to make a living). The authors suggest the finding of this fungal species on bats is consistent with its involvement in disease. The authors also make the parallel to chytridiomycosis, an emerging pathogen of amphibians that is contributing to the worldwide amphibian decline.
This is just the first of hopefully several publications studying this phenomenon as this brief piece sets the stage for additional questions. It is not yet been shown that this fungus is actually causing the disease, i.e. satisfying Koch’s postulates, and isn’t just a canary in the coal mine. So-called opportunistic fungi like Aspergillus fumigatus, Cryptococcus neoformans, and Candida albicans cause infections that emerge after the patient’s immune system has been compromised by something else such as HIV or immunosuppressant drugs as part of an organ transplant regime. It is possible that the white-nose syndrome (ie white conidia from Geomyces sp is just a manifestation of an infection of a commensal organism like thrush or yeast infections of Candida albicans that only emerge when something else has knocked down the host’s immune system. I don’t know if this same Geomyces sp can be cultured from healthy bats from so-far uninfected colonies which would suggest the fungus is present all the time.
As we track and learn more about natural die-offs and disease in animals from infectious diseases there are series of recent fungal-associated disease of animal populations including honeybees perhaps from a virus and a microsporidium, frogs and amphibians via Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and white-nose syndrome. Diseases like Cryptococcus gattii are also examples of pathogens that may be able to infect healthy animals and humans. It seems quite important to know more important to track and study how these outbreaks spread and the evolutionary and ecological basis for the sudden rise in infection and mortality in animal populations to understand diseases of human relevance as well.
D. S. Blehert, A. C. Hicks, M. Behr, C. U. Meteyer, B. M. Berlowski-Zier, E. L. Buckles, J. T. H. Coleman, S. R. Darling, A. Gargas, R. Niver, J. C. Okoniewski, R. J. Rudd, W. B. Stone (2008). Bat White-Nose Syndrome: An Emerging Fungal Pathogen? Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1163874
An outbreak of a fungal infection called “white-nose syndrome” is killing bats in the Northeastern US. This New Scientist article mentions the outbreak briefly and an NPR story and recent Boston Globe story also gives it some coverage. Sounds like we still don’t know much about the causal agent or how it is killing the bats at this time, but some researchers, including Elizabeth Buckles at Cornell University, Vishnu Chaturvedi at NY State Dept of Health, and Jon Reichard at Boston University are working on it.
This is of course old news if you read what Hyphoid Logic has been saying.
That there is a previously undescribed cold loving fungus sounds very interesting, there have been some recent discoveries of psychrophilic fungi like Cryptococcus laurentii and Rhodotorula himalayensis so it would be interesting to learn more when the researchers publish some of these results.
Some more links
Thanks Kathyrn B for reminder about this story.