The world’s first vaccine for bees has been approved
The hope of a new weapon against the diseases that regularly ravage the colonies on which food pollination relies
The world’s first vaccine for honey bees has been approved by the US government, raising hopes of a new weapon against diseases that regularly ravage colonies that are used for food pollination.
A bee with pollen on the flower of a thistle
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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted a conditional license for a vaccine created by Dalan Animal Health, an American biotechnology company, to help protect bees against American foulbrood disease.
“Our vaccine is a breakthrough in protecting bees,” said Annette Kleiser, general manager of Dalan Animal Health. “We are ready to change the way we care for insects, which will impact food production globally. »
The vaccine, which will initially be available to commercial beekeepers, aims to combat foulbrood, a serious disease caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae which can weaken and kill hives. There is currently no cure for the disease, which in some parts of the United States has been found in a quarter of hives, requiring beekeepers to destroy and burn all infected colonies and administer antibiotics to prevent further spread. .
“It’s something that beekeepers can easily recognize because it reduces the larvae to this brown goo that has a rancid stench,” said Keith Delaplane, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, who partnered with Dalan to vaccine development.
The vaccine works by incorporating some of the bacteria into the royal jelly given by the worker bees to the queen, who then ingests it and gets some of the vaccine into the ovaries. Developing bee larvae are then immune to foulbrood as they hatch, with studies by Dalan suggesting this will reduce death rates from the disease.
“In a perfect scenario, queens could be fed a cocktail in a queen candy — the soft, pasty sugar that queen bees eat while in transit,” Delaplane said. “Queen breeders could advertise ‘fully vaccinated queens’. »
American foulbrood originated in the United States and has since spread around the world. Dalan said the breakthrough could be used to find vaccines against other bee-related diseases, such as the European version of foulbrood.
As they have been marketed, transported and put to use in agriculture, bees have been exposed to a cocktail of different diseases that usually ravage large numbers of colonies and require major interventions from the management. beekeepers to maintain their numbers.
The United States is exceptionally dependent on managed bee colonies to support its food pollination, with hives regularly trucked across the country to propagate everything from almonds to blueberries.
Indeed, many species of wild bees are in alarming decline, due to habitat loss, pesticide use and the climate crisis, fueling concerns about a global crisis in insect numbers. that threatens ecosystems as well as human food security and health.
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