American Foulbrood Disease

Thank you to Jaime E. Garza, Apiary/Agricultural Standards Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures, County of San Diego for the following:

"To help improve the overall health of our honey bee community it is important for beekeepers to familiarize themselves with healthy brood conditions and types of brood diseases.

I have attached a helpful resource on American Foulbrood Disease which is a highly contagious bacteria with no cure. The disease weakens and in most cases kills a bee colony. During times of dearth a weakened infected bee colony may be susceptible to robbing by other honey bees from other colonies which can cause the bacteria to be spread. The disease can be spread by bees, honey, propolis, hive tools, frames and other beekeeping equipment."

Watch: This Dog's Nose Saves Bees

National Geographic    Via Swindon & District Beekeepers Association  January 14, 2015

Klinker is a one-of-a-kind dog. She's the only dog in the U.S. certified to detect a damaging bacteria in beehives. Along with her handler, Bill Troup, she inspects up to a thousand honeybee colonies a day for the contagious and lethal bacteria called American foulbrood.

View at National Geographic: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/150114-news-american-foulbrood-dog

Guelph Scientists One Step Closer to Inhibiting Destructive Bee Disease

The Globe and Mail    By Eric Atkins  December 16, 2014

The honeybees responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat face a host of threats, from bloodsucking mites and viruses to pesticides and climate change.

But researchers at the University of Guelph have taken a big step toward fighting the most destructive and widespread killer of honeybee larvae, a disease known as American foulbrood.

For the first time, scientists have identified a toxin released by the pathogen, and come up with a drug that could stop the disease that is prevalent in North America, Europe and other parts of the world.

“What we’ve found is an important factor that we can inhibit in this honeybee disease,” said Rod Merrill, a Guelph biochemist and co-author of the study to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

American foulbrood, named for the smell of infected hives and the country in which it was first identified more than a century ago, is spread easily among honeybee colonies by spores carried by adult bees. The spores are eaten by larvae, which die but also spread millions more spores into the hive.

“The next generation is kaput. It’s not toxic to the adults, but that ultimately destroys the hive,” Prof. Merrill said in an interview. “And then what happens is robber bees go into the hive and steal the honey, which is contaminated with the bacterial spores, and then they drag it over to their hive, so it just proliferates.”

Hives infected with the bacteria quickly fail, and beekeepers must burn the hive and all associated equipment to ensure the spores are destroyed.

There is no cure for American foulbrood. Antibiotics used to control the disease have proven ineffective as resistant strains have developed.

Field tests to be conducted on hives in the spring will show whether the drug is effective at controlling American foulbrood, said Prof. Merrill, who began the research more than two years ago.

The drug that could treat the disease is not an antibiotic, but an anti-virulence compound that controls the toxin that kills the larvae but does not prompt the bacteria to mutate by threatening their survival.

“Research takes a long time. So right at this moment I can’t say what the impact will be in treating American foulbrood,” Prof. Merrill said. “However, I can say it’s going in the right direction that we need to characterize the toxins produced by the organism that causes American foulbrood or the impending crisis for the honeybee is going to get worse.”

Long winters, virus-bearing varroa mites and pesticide exposure have contributed to declines in honeybee populations in North America and Europe. In Ontario, declining honey production and mounting costs of replacing dead bees have been blamed in part on neonicotinoid pesticides that are used to grow corn and soybeans.

In response, the Ontario government recently said it plans to impose rules that would reduce the use of the systemic pesticide by 80 per cent by 2017. Farmers who plant seeds treated with neonics would have to show their fields are susceptible to grubs, worms and other yield-destroying pests.

The move is opposed by the chemical companies that sell the pesticide-treated seeds and the Grain Farmers of Ontario, which says the restrictions will take away an important tool farmers use to protect their harvests.

A new poll of 1,000 Ontarians shows nearly 80 per cent support the provincial government’s plans to restrict the use of neonics, which scientists say impair bees’ foraging abilities and contribute to colony failure.

The poll, released by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Friends of the Earth Canada and the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, found support for the restrictions was strongest (85 per cent) in Southwestern Ontario, the heart of Canada’s corn-and-soybean region. Support was weakest, 60 per cent, in the central part of the province.

“Our food security depends on healthy pollinators,” said Gideon Forman of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Ontarians are aware of the current crisis and want the government to take action to protect bees.”

Read at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/science/scientists-in-guelph-come-one-step-closer-to-saving-the-bees/article22098146/

Using Microscopic Bugs to Save the Bees

Bee Health@extension.org    Brigham Young University   October 27, 2014 

Some Viruses can be used to protect bees against the bacterial infection, American Foulbrood. Check out this fascinating video http://youtu.be/rj9_QGBJN0w

Undergraduate BYU student on the path to treating deadly bee-killing bacteria

BYU researchers have identified five new phages that can potentially treat honeybee hives infected with American Foulbrood, a deadly disease that costs the industry millions of dollars each year.

For decades, honeybees have been battling a deadly disease that kills off their babies (larvae) and leads to hive collapse. It’s called American Foulbrood and its effects are so devastating and infectious, it often requires infected hives to be burned to the ground.

Treating Foulbrood is complicated because the disease can evolve to resist antibiotics and other chemical treatments. Losing entire hives not only disrupts the honey industry, but reduces the number of bees for pollinating plants.

Now an undergraduate student at BYU, funded by ORCA grants, has produced a natural way to eliminate the scourge, and it’s working: Using tiny killer bugs known as phages to protect baby bees from infection.

“Phages are the most abundant life form on the planet and each phage has a unique bacteria that it will attack,” said Sandra Burnett, BYU professor of microbiology and molecular biology. “This makes phage an ideal treatment for bacterial disease because it can target specific bacteria while leaving all other cells alone.”

Although phages are plentiful in nature, finding the perfect phage for the job takes a lot of hunting. That’s where student Bryan Merrill comes in.

Merrill has been researching ways to treat American Foulbrood since joining a “Phage Hunters” class his freshman year at BYU. Merrill loved the class, which introduced him to the process of phage identification, and so he approached Burnett with hopes of researching treatment for the disease under her tutelage.

“This bacteria has been a problem in honeybees for a long time,” Merrill said. “It infects the larva when they’re teeny tiny. Even a few spores will infect and they’ll start eating the larva from the inside out. It doesn’t hurt the adult bees, but all of the sudden the bees can’t replenish the population and the hive just collapses.”

When hives are infected, beekeepers generally treat their hives with antibiotics. However, this is usually only a temporary solution. If the bacteria returns, it will most likely develop to be resistant to the antibiotics. From there, bee owners have the option to burn the hive or try phage treatment.

“Phage is a great alternative to antibiotics, and it’s a natural alternative because phages exist in nature on their own,” Burnett said. “And just the nature of a phage itself is that it’s self-replicating at the expense of the bacteria. It multiplies itself so there are more of them to hunt down the bacteria. Then as soon as the host is gone, the phage just disappears.”

Once they identify the perfect phage, Burnett, Merrill and other students replicate it in the lab so it can be applied to the hive with a sugar-water solution. Like a virus, the phage get to work infecting the harmful bacteria until it is gone.

After a lot of gene sequencing and analyzing, Merrill has identified five phage candidates for honeybee treatment, cleverly named after former BYU basketball stars (Abouo, Davies, Emery, Jimmer1 & Jimmer2). His findings appear in a recent issue of high ranking biotechnology journalBMC Genomics.

Merrill has received two ORCA grants to fund his research over the years and has raised several successful beehives for himself.

Read more here: http://news.byu.edu/archive14-oct-bee...

New Drug for American Foulbrood (AFB)

In March 2012, FDA approved LINCOMIX Soluble Powder, sponsored by Pharmacia and Upjohn Co., a Division of Pfizer, Inc. to control American Foulbrood 

By Melanie McLean, DVM, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

American Foulbrood – A Foul Disease

When beekeepers utter the three-letter acronym “AFB,” they’re not referring to the closest air force base. Rather, they’re talking about American foulbrood, a serious infectious disease of honey bees. Caused by the spore-forming bacteria Paenibacillus larvae and found worldwide, AFB is one of the most widespread diseases affecting honey bee brood, and the most destructive. The disease does not pose any health risks to people, but it wrecks havoc among bees. Severe outbreaks can weaken or kill entire colonies.

American foulbrood affects the larval and pupal stages of brood development, leaving adult bees safe from infection. Young larvae may die quickly when they are curled at the base of their uncapped cells. Worker bees remove these dead larvae, leaving empty cells. Most often, death occurs after the cell has been capped. By this time, the older larvae or young pupae have stretched out lengthwise and are upright, filling most of their cell. Read more...

(The above brought us by CATCH THE BUZZ (Kim Flottum) Bee Culture, The Magazine of American Beekeeping, published by A.I. Root Company.)