Bee-killing parasite genome sequenced

June 5, 2009

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have sequenced the genome of a parasite that can kill honey bees. Nosema ceranae is one of many pathogens suspected of contributing to the current bee population decline, termed colony collapse disorder (CCD). Researchers describe the parasite's genome in a study published June 5 in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens.

In 2006, CCD began devastating commercial beekeeping operations, with some beekeepers reporting losses of up to 90 percent, according to the USDA. Researchers believe CCD may be the result of a combination of pathogens, parasites and stress factors, but the cause remains elusive. At stake are honey bees that play a valuable part in a $15 billion industry of crop farming in the United States.

The microsporidian Nosema is a fungus-related microbe that produces spores that bees consume when they forage. Infection spreads from their digestive tract to other tissues. Within weeks, colonies are either wiped out or lose much of their strength. Nosema apis was the leading cause of microsporidia infections among domestic bee colonies until recently when N. ceranae jumped from Asian honey bees to the European honey bees used commercially in the United States.

The ARS scientists used genetic tools and microscopic analysis at the ARS Bee Research Laboratory (BRL) in Beltsville, Maryland to examine N. ceranae. They collaborated with colleagues at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, Columbia University, New York, New York, and 454 Life Sciences, of Branford, Connecticut.

Sequencing the should help scientists trace the parasite's migration patterns, determine how it became dominant, and help resolve the spread of infection by enabling the development of diagnostic tests and treatments.

More information: Cornman RS, Chen YP, Schatz MC, Street C, Zhao Y, et al. (2009) Genomic Analyses of the Microsporidian Nosema ceranae, an Emergent Pathogen of Honey Bees. PLoS Pathog 5(6): e1000466. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000466;

Source: Public Library of Science (news : web)

Explore further: Probing Question: What's killing the honey bees?

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not rated yet Jun 05, 2009
Many scientist say there is no single cause to "colony collapse disorder". Unhygienic hives would create a breeding ground for many illnesses and would explain no single cause (just like damp, drafty houses cause many illnesses in humans)

The design of domestic (artificial) bee hives make bees vulnerable to pests or Colony collapse disorder (for an illustration see )

Bees are hygienic, and when they clean their hives, organic and in-organic material finds its way to the bottom of the beehive. In most beehives this dirt accumulate near the hive entrance. Bees walk in and out over accumulated dirt, providing an ideal opportunity for pests and disease to spread.

The hive can be seen as an ecosystem that include bees and bee pests. The introduction of the artificial hive has changed this ecosystem, allowing pests to evolve their behavior to gain a competitive advantage.
not rated yet Jun 07, 2009
"damp, drafty houses cause many illnesses in humans"

Holy Van Leeuwenhoek! Back to spontaneous generation!

I believe that modern artificial hives have screen-floors to allow trash to fall out of the hive. Kind'a like screen doors prevent illness in humans. Sheesh

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