Breakthrough in protecting honey bees. US approves world's first vaccine against terminal disease
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It was developed to prevent deaths from American foulbrood, a bacterial disease that weakens colonies by attacking bee larvae
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a conditional license this week on the vaccine, according to the biotech firm behind its development, according to the BBC.
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As pollinators, bees play a critical role in many aspects of the ecosystem.
A vaccine could be a “breakthrough in protection of honey bees,” Dalan Animal Health CEO Annette Kleiser said in a statement.
Her work is built according to the following mechanism: the uterus is fed with royal jelly with an inactive version of the bacterium, due to which it becomes resistant to infection. The formed larvae, later, acquire immunity from the “mother”.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, since 2006, the US has experienced an annual decline in honey bee colonies. Many, sometimes overlapping, factors threaten the health of these insects, including parasites, pests, and diseases, as well as a phenomenon called colony collapse syndrome, which occurs when worker bees leave the hive and leave the queen.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, pollinators such as bees, birds and bats account for about a third of the world's crop production.
American foulbrood is a major problem for beekeepers because it is highly contagious and not amenable to treatment. The only way to combat this disease is to burn a colony of infected bees along with hives and equipment, as well as treating nearby colonies with antibiotics.
The new vaccine contains an inactive version of the bacteria that causes American foulbrood disease, Paenibacillus larvae, according to Dalan Animal Health.
According to a biotech firm that specializes in insect health and immunology, the bacteria are incorporated into the royal jelly that worker bees produce. the queen bee, which then ingests the food and retains some of the vaccine in its ovaries. The study says this gives the bee larvae immunity to the disease when they hatch and reduces mortality from the disease.
The new vaccine could be “an exciting step forward for beekeepers,” a board member of the California Association said in a statement. of beekeepers Trevor Towser.
“If we can prevent infection in our hives, we will avoid costly treatments and focus our energy on other important elements of keeping our bees healthy,” he said.
Dalan plans to distribute the vaccine “on a limited basis” to commercial beekeepers and said the product will likely be available for purchase in the US this year.