Team testing biological treatment for pathogens that are killing honeybees and bats

June 20, 2014

A researcher at Georgia State University is studying a new, biological treatment for bacterial and fungal pathogens that are killing honeybees and bats in record numbers.

Dr. Christopher Cornelison, a postdoctoral researcher, is testing how effective Rhodococcus rhodochrous, a species of bacteria, is in fighting pathogens affecting and bats.

In honeybees, Chalkbrood disease has contributed to the number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. being cut in half, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Since 2006, White-Nose Syndrome has killed an estimated 7 million bats in North America, the steepest wildlife decline in the past century.

Cornelison grows the bacteria under certain conditions that enable them to inhibit the growth of fungi responsible for these diseases. The approach is unique because the bacteria do not need to make physical contact, unlike many probiotics. It's also non-toxic, allowing the honey to be edible for human consumption.

"Our bacteria produce a volatile chemical that's dispersed through the air and tremendously inhibits the growth of fungal and bacterial pathogens," Cornelison said.

Honeybees and bats are key to the ecosystem. One of every three bites of food in America is related to honeybee pollination, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Many crops such as almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables depend on pollination by honeybees.

Bats play a crucial role in pest control. A single brown bat will eat its body mass equivalent in insects in one summer night, Cornelison said.

"If these species go extinct, we're losing something that we don't even comprehend the value of right now," he said.

Cornelison has achieved positive results in cell studies. In honeybees, no negative effects were found in toxicity trials exposing bees to the bacteria in the air or in their honey.

In , Cornelison found the bacteria slow fungal growth and permanently eliminated spore germination. In collaboration with University of California–Davis, he found the prevented the spread of fungi on bat skin without touching the skin.

Explore further: Fungal disease fatal to bats spreads to half of US

Related Stories

Researchers discover bees are picky pollinators

January 24, 2014

( —Huge swaths of the agricultural industry depend on the humble honeybee. According to the USDA, "about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination." Biologists ...

Managed honeybees linked to new diseases in wild bees

February 19, 2014

Diseases that are common in managed honeybee colonies are now widespread in the UK's wild bumblebees, according to research published in Nature. The study suggests that some diseases are being driven into wild bumblebee populations ...

Fungus that's killing millions of bats 'isn't going away'

November 5, 2013

University of Illinois researchers say that an infectious and lethal cold-loving fungus that has killed an estimated 6 million bats in North America can persist indefinitely in caves whether there are bats in them or not.

The real reason to worry about bees

September 10, 2013

Honeybees should be on everyone's worry list, and not because of the risk of a nasty sting, an expert on the health of those beneficial insects said here today at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical ...

Recommended for you

New analysis of big data sheds light on cell functions

October 26, 2016

Researchers have developed a new way of obtaining useful information from big data in biology to better understand—and predict—what goes on inside a cell. Using genome-scale models, researchers were able to integrate ...

Researchers identify genes for 'Help me!' aromas from corn

October 25, 2016

When corn seedlings are nibbled by caterpillars, they defend themselves by releasing scent compounds that attract parasitic wasps whose larvae consume the caterpillar—but not all corn varieties are equally effective at ...

Structure of key DNA replication protein solved

October 25, 2016

A research team led by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) has solved the three-dimensional structure of a key protein that helps damaged cellular DNA repair itself. Investigators say that knowing ...

Genome editing: Efficient CRISPR experiments in mouse cells

October 25, 2016

In order to use the CRISPR-Cas9 system to cut genes, researchers must design an RNA sequence that matches the DNA of the target gene. Most genes have hundreds of such sequences, with varying activity and uniqueness in the ...


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.