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article imageNew discovery could help protect the bees

By Tim Sandle     Jan 9, 2015 in Environment
Etymologists have made a new discovery to combat a disease that has been savagely killing global honeybee populations. The scientists took a toxin released by the pathogen that causes American foulbrood disease and developed an inhibitor against it.
Bee populations are falling throughout the world globally. There are multiple reasons for this, including the over-use of pesticides and bacterial or parasitic diseases. The impact is serious because bees are crucial pollinators in the human food chain: without bees to spread pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts, fruit may not form.
American foulbrood is found throughout Ontario and Canada, and affects both the honeybee industry and pollinator populations. The disease is bacterial (from the species Paenibacillus larvae ssp. Larvae) and spreads through the release of spores throughout the hive.
Bee Larvae up to three days old become infected by ingesting spores that are present in their food. Young larvae less than 24 hours old are most susceptible to infection. Once infected, most larvae die.
Treating American foulbrood has proved to be very difficult, not least because the disease has evolved over several decades. However, a new and more robust treatment could be imminent. Scientists have identified a toxin termed C3larvin. They are of the view that this toxin is necessary for the bacteria to colonize a hive.
Thus, if the toxin can be “disarmed,” then the bacteria will not be able to infect bee larvae. Although researchers have only just identified and broken down the toxin into its chemical parts, they are confident that an anti-toxin can be developed.
It is hoped to turn the discovery into a commercial treatment and thus create a “natural” and effective method for fighting the most widespread and destructive of bee brood diseases.
The research was carried out at the University of Guelph. The research outcomes have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, with the research project titled “C3larvin toxin, an ADP-ribosyltransferase from Paenibacillus larvae.”
More about Bees, Honeybees, Bacteria, antitoxin
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