Bees disease -- 1 step closer to finding a cure

May 2, 2008

Scientists in Germany have discovered a new mechanism of infection for the most fatal bee disease. American Foulbrood (AFB) is the only infectious disease which can kill entire colonies of bees. Every year, this notifiable disease is causing considerable economic loss to beekeepers all over the world. The only control measure is to destroy the infected hive.

The mechanism of infection (pathogenic mechanism) was originally thought to be through the growth of a bacterium called Paenibacillus larvae in the organ cavity of honey bee larvae. The accepted view was that the bacteria germinate preferentially at either end of the gut of honey bee larvae then make holes in the gut wall and enter the larval organ cavity, the presumed primary place of bacterial proliferation.

In a paper published in Environmental Microbiology, Professor Elke Genersch and colleagues in Berlin explain that they have discovered that these bacteria cause infection in a completely different way. They colonize the larval midgut, do most of their multiplying in the mid-gut - living from the food ingested by the larvae - until eventually the honey bee larvae gut contains nothing but these disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria. It isn’t until then that the bacteria ‘burst’ out of the gut into the organ cavity thereby killing the larvae. These findings are a major breakthrough in honeybee pathology.

“Now that we fully understand the way in which this disease works, we can start to look at ways of preventing the spread of infection” said Professor Genersch.

Honeybees are important pollinators of crops, fruit and wild flowers. Therefore, they are indispensable for a sustainable and profitable agriculture but also for the maintenance of the non-agricultural ecosystem. Honeybees are attacked by numerous pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. For most, if not all of these diseases, the molecular pathogenesis is poorly understood hampering the development of new ideas about how to prevent and combat honeybee diseases.

Professor Genersch added: “Molecular understanding of pathogen-host interactions is vital for the development of effective measures against infectious diseases. Therefore, in the long run, our findings will help to save large numbers of bees all over the world.”

Source: Wiley

Explore further: Staying safe in sandy beaches

Related Stories

Staying safe in sandy beaches

August 28, 2015

Beach sand contains all kinds of microorganisms, including those that can harm human health. Yet current guidelines are focused exclusively on monitoring the levels of microbes in the water.

A model for ageing

August 7, 2015

Life is short, especially for the killifish, Nothobranchius furzeri: It lives for only a few months and then its time is up. During that short lifespan it passes through every phase of life from larva to venerable old fish. ...

How bees naturally vaccinate their babies

July 31, 2015

When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don't have a choice—they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how ...

Newly named bacteria help honey bee larvae thrive

May 7, 2015

Honey bees are under constant pressure from a whole host of stresses—diseases, poor nutrition, sublethal effects of pesticides, and many others. While researchers have been aware for a number of years of a community of ...

Recommended for you

Team extends the lifetime of atoms using a mirror

October 13, 2015

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in an experiment where they get an artificial atom to survive ten times longer than normal by positioning the atom in front of a mirror. The findings were recently ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet May 02, 2008
Great kill all the bees before they can
develop a natural immunity
not rated yet May 02, 2008
I thought the bees were dying from eating GMO crops that mess their digestive system all up?
not rated yet May 03, 2008
I thought the bees were dying from eating GMO crops that mess their digestive system all up?

You've been lied to.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.