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article imageDeformed wing virus: Major risk to bee colony collapse

By Tim Sandle     Nov 18, 2016 in Environment
Bee populations are in decline globally. There are several reasons: pesticides, habitat loss, mite infestation and viruses. New research has focused on a pathogen called deformed wing virus, and offers some hope.
With the deformed wing virus, scientists have, for the first time, managed to simulate the course of disease using artificial genetic material of the virus. Understanding this process is key to helping bee colonies in many regions of the world. Bees are major contributors to global agriculture.
Deformed wing virus is associated with Varroa mites. Varroa mites can only reproduce in a honey bee colony. It attaches to the body of the bee and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph.
The virus is concentrated in the heads and abdomens of infected adult bees. The virus is suspected of causing the wing and abdominal deformities. The lifespan of an infected bee is reduced to under 48 hours. Although the virus is most probably carried by mites, the virus has been found to be present in many hives where there are no mites.
Then new study into the disease has come from the Institute of Virology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. To track the spread of the virus, the research group developed a molecular clone and this has allowed for study of the disease under laboratory conditions.
The essential reagent is an infectious DNA clone, a double-stranded DNA copy of the viral genome carried in a bacterial plasmid (a plasmid is a small, circular, double-stranded DNA molecule which naturally exists in bacterial cells).To generate the viral clone required a complex process. The scientists amplified genetic RNA material of a virus and saved it as a DNA copy. In tests on honey bees (Apis mellifera), the viral clone produced the same disease symptoms discoloration, dwarfism, and later death. The tests were conducted on adult bees, larvae and pupae.
The model showed how the virus targets neural, gland and connective tissue cells. It is hoped that testing the model will allow for the future strategies to be developed and to protect colonies.
The research has been published in the journal PLOS One and the research is reported to “Construction and Rescue of a Molecular Clone of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).”
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