Nosema Ceranae

IBRA (International Bee Research Association) FB Post   December 12, 2015

Nosema ceranae is a single cell infection in honey bees. It was said to cause 20,000 colony losses in Salamanca, Spain.

Molecular biology techniques have been used to explore how the honey bee cell reacts to N. ceranae infection. A team of researchers from China and the US (including IBRA trustee Jay Evans) compared bees with and without an infection - and looked at what was going on inside the cell. They found 17 micro-RNA changes when a honey bee cell is infected with N. ceranae. Although we don't yet fully understand the picture, it is a start.

The science bit
DNA forms the blueprint or architect's plans for a cell; DNA holds all the information needed to make a fully functional cell.As need arises, those plans are carried in chunks of text (called messenger-RNA) over to the cellular processing centre so the "stuff that needs to be made" or the "something that needs to be done" will happen.

Micro-RNA binds (or sticks) to unused messenger-RNA so it will be broken down and the message it carries cannot be used. Simply put, microRNA is a "control switch." Micro-RNA controls many things including how cells grow and develop (developmental processes) and normal day to day functions (physiological processes).

So what?
Somehow N. ceranae infection changes the profile of micro-RNa control switches. This leads to a change in the gene-messages being used and ultimately changes what is going on in the cell. The researchers found several chemical pathways were affected - with faster trans-membrane transport and cell metabolism.

Why does it matter?
It may be the faster processes makes more resources available for the N.ceranae to reproduce in bee midgut epithelial cells. It may also explain why honey bees with Nosema need more sugar water to fuel a faster rate of metabolism. However there is much still to be learned about how these changes happen and whether this response takes place only for N.ceranae infections... or always happens when there is an infection.

How will this help beekeepers?
Well, it won't help us yet.. but it gives an insight to how an infection works in honey bees and by understanding that we might be able to work out how to control Nosema in the future.

Find out more about Nosemosis here

Find the free to view scientific paper here

Image: The photo comes from the article "Does Nosema ceranae cause Colony Collapse Disorder?" by Robert Paxton, published in the Journal of Apicultural Research in 2010:…