Researchers in Sweden said Friday they had developed a new medicine to protect bees from diseases that kill entire populations of the insect in the US and Europe.
A team of microbiologists at Lund University have patented the treatment, known as SymBeeotic—made from lactic acid bacteria from the stomachs of healthy bees—which they described as a major "boost" to bees' immune system and are hopeful that it could slow down the rate at which bees are dying.
"The bacteria in this product is active against both American and European foulbrood disease," Dr Alejandra Vasquez, who co-developed the product, told AFP. Foulbrood is the fatal bacterial disease which threatens bees.
"We hope that beekeepers will see this as a good preventative medicine so that they can avoid using antibiotics."
The researchers, who worked on the medicine for nearly ten years, planned to launch it at an annual conference of beekeepers in Russia on Saturday.
In a statement from the university, co-researcher Dr Tobias Olofsson said it was "the only existing product that boosts bees' natural immune system", as resistance to antibiotics grows.
Pesticides, parasites, stress and poor nutrition are believed to be some of the factors causing a deterioration of the immune systems of bees around the world, making them more susceptible to disease.
Explore further: Sexual selection isn't the last word on bird plumage, study shows