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Bee vaccine

January 2019: Scientists developed a vaccine for honeybees and other pollinators. This study is proof of concept that insects can be vaccinated against microbes. The vaccine could support the increase of bee resilience and could protect honeybees from diseases that are currently decimating bee populations.

Information

Insects are vital for the pollination of 3/4ths of human food crops and the global price estimate for crops directly relying on pollinators is estimated between US$235 and US$577 billion a year. Scientists now developed a vaccine against American foulbrood disease for honeybees and other pollinators. The disease is one of the most destructive and widespread bee brood diseases. They administer an edible sugar patty to queen bees that delivers a vaccines dose between 10 and 15 grams over a week. The protein Vitellogenin then binds to pathogens. The pathogens carry into the queen’s eggs and prompt immune responses against the disease in the queen’s offspring. 

Implications and opportunities

This study is proof of concept that insects can be vaccinated against microbes. It was previously thought impossible for insects to acquire immunity. Insect’s immune system lacks antibodies which are one of the central mechanisms for immunological memory found in mammals. This could support the increase of bee resilience and could protect honeybees from diseases that are currently decimating bee populations. It further points towards a promising future of vaccinating insects against other diseases such as the deformed-wing virus. Protecting bee populations would by extension protect ecosystems, agriculture, and support food security for humans.

Limitations

The vaccine PrimeBee remains in its developmental stage and is not yet commercially available. The pending patent represents only one solution for an array of problems facing bees such as pesticides, parasites, habitat loss, and resulting poor nutrition.


Sources

Salmela, H., Amdam, G. V., & Freitak, D. (2015). Transfer of Immunity from Mother to Offspring Is Mediated via Egg-Yolk Protein Vitellogenin. PLOS Pathogens, 11(7), e1005015. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1005015

Sustainability Times. (2018). Scientists in Finland Develop a Promising Bee Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.sustainability-times.com/environmental-protection/scientists-in-finland-develop-a-promising-bee-vaccine/

 

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