Biomarker metabolites discriminate between physiological states of field, cave and White-nose Syndrome diseased bats
Analysis of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions using electronic-nose (e-nose) devices has shown promise for early detection of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. Tricolored bats, Perimyotis subflavus, from three separate sampling groups defined by environmental conditions, levels of physical activity, and WNS-disease status were captured temporarily for collection of VOC emissions to determine relationships between these combinations of factors and physiological states, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd)-infection status, and metabolic conditions. Physiologically active (non-torpid) healthy individuals were captured outside of caves in Arkansas and Louisiana. In addition, healthy and WNS-diseased torpid bats were sampled within caves in Arkansas. Wholebody VOC emissions from bats were collected using portable air-collection and sampling-chamber devices in tandem. Electronic aroma-detection data using three-dimensional Principal Component Analysis provided strong evidence that the three groups of bats had significantly different e-nose aroma signatures, indicative of different VOC profiles. This was confirmed by differences in peak numbers, peak areas, and tentative chemical identities indicated by chromatograms from dualcolumn GC-analyses. The numbers and quantities of VOCs present in whole-body emissions from physiologically active healthy field bats were significantly greater than those of torpid healthy and diseased cave bats. Specific VOCs were identified as chemical biomarkers of healthy and diseased states, environmental conditions (outside and inside of caves), and levels of physiological activity. These results suggest that GC/E-nose dual-technologies based on VOC-detection and analyses of physiological states, provide noninvasive alternative means for early assessments of Pd-infection, WNS-disease status, and other physiological states.