Skin pH varies among bat species and seasons and between wild and captive bats Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Abstract Skin is a key aspect of the immune system in the defence against pathogens. Skin pH regulates the activity of enzymes produced both by hosts and by microbes on host skin, thus implicating pH in disease susceptibility. Skin pH varies inter- and intra-specifically and is influenced by a variety of intrinsic and extrinsic variables. Increased skin alkalinity is associated with a predisposition to cutaneous infections in humans and dogs, and inter-specific and inter-individual variation in skin pH is implicated in differential susceptibility to some skin diseases. The cutaneous pH of bats has not been characterized but is postulated to play a role in susceptibility to white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal infection that has decimated several Nearctic bat species. We used non-invasive probes to measure the pH of bat flight membranes in five species with differing susceptibility to WNS. Skin pH ranged from 4.67 to 8.59 and varied among bat species, geographic locations, body parts, age classes, sexes and seasons. Wild Eptesicus fuscus were consistently more acidic than wild Myotis lucifugus, Myotis leibii and Perimyotis subflavus. Juvenile bats had more acidic skin than adults during maternity season but did not differ during swarming. Male M. lucifugus were more acidic than females during maternity season, yet this trend reversed during swarming. Bat skin was more acidic in summer compared to winter, a pattern also reported in humans. Skin pH was more acidic in captive than wild E. fuscus, suggesting environmental impacts on skin pH. The pH of roosting substrates affects skin pH in captive bats and may partially explain seasonal patterns in wild bats that use different roost types across seasons. Future research on the influence of pH on microbial pathogenic factors and skin barrier function may provide valuable insights on new therapeutic targets for treating bat skin conditions.

authors

  • Vanderwolf, Karen J
  • Kyle, Christopher J
  • Faure, Paul
  • McAlpine, Donald F
  • Davy, Christina M

publication date

  • January 1, 2021