First Honeybee Vaccine Approved

first honeybee vaccine approved

Earlier this year, the USDA approved the world’s first honeybee vaccine, for use in preventing American foulbrood (AFB).

Commercial honey and pollination operations, as well as small-scale beekeepers, have long dreaded this extremely damaging disease.  Infected hives usually have to be burned.

Insects have effective immune systems, but they lack the antibody-forming mechanisms that humans and other vertebrates possess. A key breakthrough in the development of the AFB vaccine came when researchers discovered how immunity is transferred from the queen to her eggs – through an egg-yolk protein called vitellogenin.

By inactivating the bacteria – Paenibacillus larvae – that causes AFB, and binding it to vitellogenin, researchers were able to confer immunity to the queens. The vaccine is added to the royal jelly that the worker bees feed to the queen. When the queen ingests the vaccine, the immunity is transferred to the eggs in her ovaries.

The first doses of the vaccine shipped earlier this month to a large commercial apiary on the west coast. It is expected to be widely available later this year.

According to the manufacturer, this new technology for creating insect vaccines holds potential for protecting against other diseases of honeybees, as well as applications in wild pollinators.

Tag(s): beekeeping

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