Should a bat sunbathe?
Last summer, while my friends and I were about to enter Lehman Caves, located in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park. A park ranger asked asked us if any of us had been in other caves anywhere in the U.S. The ranger said that although Lehman Caves had not yet been effected, there was a rapidly-spreading disease, suffered by cave-dwelling bats, which was decimating the bat population across the country. A fungus caused the disease that turned the bats’ noses white. Hence, it was accurately called “white nose syndrome.” None of our group had been in any caves in the recent past and therefore were pronounced clean. We then had a wonderful tour through a spectacular cave.
Sunbeds for bats?
This experience made a memorable impact on me. I recently discovered, to my surprise, that white-nose syndrome could be stopped by using sunbeds—bat sunbeds that is. A spectrum of light emitted from both sunlight and sunbeds (UVB). UVB causes tanning and is also capable of damaging the DNA of the fungi that cause the disease, thereby destroying them. So, the treatment is to fit the bats’ cave entrances with UVB lamps. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin suggested this idea.
Sunbeds are anti-fungal.
Furthermore, this is not the first research to point out the anti-fungal nature of UVB light. Research has shown that sunlight may be good for decontaminating socks and feet, much as it decontaminates our bat friends. Scientists tested socks infected with the fungus causing tinea pedis (“athlete’s foot”), a chronic skin disease. The objective of the research was “to evaluate the effectivity of sun exposure in reducing fungal contamination in used clothing.” Fifty-two socks, proven by fungal culture to be contaminated by patients with tinea pedis, were studied. The samples were divided into two groups: Group A underwent sun exposure for 3 consecutive days. Group B remained indoors. Fungal cultures were performed at the end of each day. It is most noteworthy that elimination of the fungal cultures was significant in the sun-exposure group, but not the indoor group.
When I was young, my mother washed our clothing and hung it on a clothesline. It had full exposure to sunlight. I won’t forget how fresh the clothing (including the socks) smelled after ward. I expect that as a result, any fungi or bacteria were eliminated, along with the resultant odor. Had the clothing remained inside it would have likely become malodorous.
In conclusion, the message is that both we and the bats can benefit from exposure to UVB light. It is especially relevant that bats are a vitally important part of the ecosystem; therefore we should protect them any way we can. Sun exposure and sunbed exposure, when used in a safe, non-burning manner, will help both the health and the environment. Safely embrace the sun!
 Amichai B, Grunwald M, Davidovici B, Shemer A. Sun as a disinfectant. Isr Med Assoc J. 2014 Jul;16(7):431-3.