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article imageFight against honeybee infections

By Tim Sandle     Sep 20, 2013 in Environment
Scientists have modeled an outbreak of the bee infection American foulbrood , using a technique which could be applied to other honeybee diseases.Tthe method also allows scientists to simulate disease control strategies in order to measure their efficacy.
Different types of bees, including honeybees, face a wide range of threats. Some of these are human created, like agricultural chemicals, others are the result of natural pathogens. The implications of declining bee populations around the globe has significant implications for the pollination plants and agriculture. For example, without bees to spread pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts, fruit may not form.
The implications of the decline in bees is aptly captured in a Digital Journal article by Alexander Baron, which starkly, but accurately, states: "The bee is one of the most important creatures on the face of this planet. For some time bees have been dying in droves, and if they die, so do we."
For the study, scientists used data gathered two months apart during an outbreak of American foulbrood in Jersey, U.S., in the summer of 2010. This provided two 'snapshots' of the disease from which they attempted to reconstruct the entire epidemic. American foulbrood is a caused by a bacterium (Paenibacillus larvae ssp. larvae). It is the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases. This disease only affects the bee larvae but is highly infectious and deadly to bee brood.
The data covered 450 honeybee hives, their location and their owners, from which the researchers built a computer simulation which modeled the speed at which the infection grew as well as how it spread geographically. The main findings were:
a) Just under half of the infection spread was attributed to transmission by owners between their own hives.
b) The distance between colonies is an important factor in the spread of the disease, with the disease mostly spreading between hives less than 2 kilometers apart.
c) The model also simulated the impact of different control strategies on controlling the epidemic and found that the measures taken to inspect and destroy infected colonies are the most effective.
The researchers hope that these findings are read, understood and disseminated, so that bee killing pathogens can be addressed more effectively.
The study was carried out at the University of Warwick, U.K. The research has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The article is titled "Modelling the spread of American foulbrood in honeybees."
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