Bees disease -- 1 step closer to finding a cure

May 02, 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: Lichen to thrill as rare Golden-eye is discovered in South Wales

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using microscopic bugs to save the bees

Oct 27, 2014

For decades, honeybees have been battling a deadly disease that kills off their babies (larvae) and leads to hive collapse. It's called American Foulbrood and its effects are so devastating and infectious, ...

Recommended for you

Protecting crops from radiation-contaminated soil

2 hours ago

Almost four years after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, farmland remains contaminated with higher-than-natural levels of radiocesium in some regions of Japan, with cesium-134 ...

Activating genes on demand

15 hours ago

When it comes to gene expression - the process by which our DNA provides the recipe used to direct the synthesis of proteins and other molecules that we need for development and survival - scientists have ...

Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

15 hours ago

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership that includes the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, have found a way ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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