New Study Finds Connection Between Virus and Colony Collapse Disorder

Posted Sep 7, 2007 by Bob Ewing
A cooperative research effort searching for the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder in honey bees may have found a culprit, the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV). this is the first time that IAPV has been found in the U.S.
A cooperative research process, undertaken by a team composed of researchers from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Pennsylvania State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Arizona, and 454 Life Sciences, has found a connection between the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) and colony collapse disorder (CCD).
The results of this team effort are considered to be an important step towards understanding CCD and will be published in the journal Science this week.
CCD results in honey bee colonies losing all of their worker bees and no one, as yet, knows why this is happening.
The team has been studying the possible role that infection may play in CCD and have used revolutionary genetic technologies, to survey microflora of CCD hives, normal hives, and imported royal jelly.
The research team, which Diana Cox-Foster, professor in the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University, Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Jeffery Pettis, research leader of the ARS Bee Research Laboratory, and Nancy Moran, Professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson, screened candidate pathogens for significance of association with CCD by examining samples collected by the USDA and Penn State from several sites over a period of three years.
The team used the 454 Life Sciences high-throughput DNA sequencing platform, and analytical methods developed at Columbia, to search for footprints of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites in thousands of sequences. Further testing was conducted in order to characterize the possible candidates through a more detailed sequence analysis to ascertain their specificity for CCD and relationship to known and unknown pathogens.
IAPV is an unclassified dicistrovirus that has not been previously reported in the U.S. and that is transmitted by the varroa mite, and Kasmir bee virus (KPV) was only found in CCD hives. The team reported that IAPV was found in all four affected operations sampled, in two of four royal jelly samples, and in the Australian sample.
KBV was present in three of four CCD operations, but not in the royal jelly. One organism was significantly correlated with CCD: finding IAPV in a bee sample correctly distinguished CCD from non-CCD status 96.1 percent of the time.
Dr. Lipkin said, “This is a powerful new strategy for looking at outbreaks of infectious disease and finding cause. Dr. Cox-Foster recruited us into this project, making a persuasive case for applying our state-of-the-art methods for differential diagnosis of infectious disease in humans, to this challenge in agricultural epidemiology. The profound synergy within the group—bringing entomology, microbiology, and bioinformatics together—enabled us to work toward a solution to this extraordinarily complex problem.”
This study is the first report of IAPV in the United States. First recognized in 2004, in Israel, IAPV cam to researchers attention due to observing infected bees with shivering wings, that progressed to paralysis and then to death just outside the hive. Bees were imported from Australia to the United States in 2004 and this date coincides with early reports of unusual colony declines.
Non-CCD hives have been found with IAPV and this may reflect strain variation, co-infection, or the presence of other stressors, such as pesticides or poor nutrition.
“Our results indicate that IAPV is a significant marker for CCD. This discovery may be helpful in identifying hives at risk for disease. The next step is to ascertain whether IAPV, alone or in concert with other factors, can induce CCD in healthy bees,” added Dr. Lipkin.