First Honey Bee Vaccine

US Approves World’s First Honeybee Vaccine Against the Deadly Hive Bacteria

By Louise Franco

A honeybee vaccine, meant to protect honeybees against the deadly hive bacteria, has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The fatal honeybee infection is known as the foulbrood disease, which is known for killing honeybees and decimating honeybee colonies.

The USDA approval of the world’s first honeybee vaccine will allow its full distribution and usage.

Prior to the approval, the honeybee disease has reportedly weakened and destroyed bee nests, which significantly affected the insect’s population in some areas.

Being renowned agents of pollination, honeybees are crucial for the survival of most of the world’s flowering plants through the dissemination of their pollen that could enable the production of seeds.

During a press release earlier this week, biotech firm Dalan Animal Health, a company that pioneers in insect health, stated that the USDA “granted a conditional license” for vaccinating honeybees against the American Foulbrood disease (AFB) caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, as cited by Business Wire, an American media company.

With regard to the latest developments, it is an exciting step for beekeepers as they have relied on antibiotic treatment with limited effectiveness for too long, requiring large amount of time and energy to apply to bee hives, according to Trevor Tauzer, who owns Tauzer Apiaries and a board member of the California State Beekeepers Association.

Furthermore, honeybees are important component of agriculture, accounting to a relatively large portion of the global food supply that relies on pollination.

In addition, healthy commercial hives are necessary to secure high crop yields.

However, honeybees are plagued by AFB with reported clinical cases in the US and Canada, as cited by the media company.

Vaccine Usage

Created by Dalan Animal Health, the vaccine is considered to be a breakthrough when it comes to protecting honeybees, and a precedent to changing how we care for insects that impacts food production on a global scale, according to Annette Kleiser, the company’s chief executive, as cited by The Guardian.

As of latest updates, the vaccine will be used by the US government and will be initially available for commercial beekeepers in an attempt to curb cases of foulbrood disease.

Despite the vaccine development, there is still no cure against AFB. A number of cases in the past have ended up in using the said conventional antibiotics or killing the infected honeybees.

What is the Foulbrood Disease?

As further explanation about AFB, the Pennsylvania State University in November 2022 states that the American foulbrood is a bacterial brood disease that only targets honey bee larvae, leading to the death of colony in only three weeks.

The honeybee infection is most commonly transmitted via spores of the bacteria, which can be dormant inside colonies or used equipment for at least 70 years.

The disease received its name since it emits a “foul” odor when the bacteria kills a honey bee larvae after receiving the spore-contaminated food from nurse bees when it is being fed, the Penn State explained.

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