NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists from Maryland’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center announced Friday that they and their collaborators have identified a virus in American honey bees that was previously detected only in European bees.
The ECBC researchers, working in collaboration with investigators from the University of Montana and industry partners from the Montana-based companies Bee Alert Technology and BVS detected a virus called Varroa Destructor Virus-1, or VDV-1, in East Coast bees using an Integrated Virus Detection System developed by researchers at ECBC and proteomic mass spectrometry.
“We didn’t expect to find it in the US,” Jerry Bromenshenk, a University of Montana researcher and CEO of Bee Alert Technology, told GenomeWeb Daily News. “This virus was known in Europe. It’s now here.”
First discovered in Europe in 2004, VDV-1 is an RNA virus that is transmitted to honey bees by the Varroa destructor mite. The pathology of the virus remains murky and it is unknown what symptoms, if any, it causes in honey bees. VDV-1 is closely related to other bee viruses, including the deformed wing virus, which previously has been found in North America.
For this project, the researchers tested at least a dozen major sites from across the country, Bromenshenk said, noting that his team conducted surveys of beekeepers from almost every state.
Combining IVDS and mass spectrometry approaches allowed the researchers to determine the size of viruses in honey bees and to collect information about the peptides created by the viruses. “What we’re seeing here are two technologies that have not heretofore been applied to this kind of problem for honey bees,” Bromenshenk said.
So far VDV-1 has turned up in just two samples, both from Florida. Bromenshenk stressed that since the virus was only detected in East Coast samples, it is not likely to be involved in colony collapse disorder, a devastating condition that’s been slashing honey bee numbers in the US.
The IVDS technology was developed roughly a decade ago by ECBC, the Army’s main chemical and biological defense technology R&D center. ECBC filed a series of patents for the underlying technology of IVDS between 2000 and 2007. It has also licensed the technology to a number of companies, including BVS.
The research has not yet been submitted for peer review and publication. Bromenshenk said the collaborators plan to submit a paper outlining how they found the virus, but stressed that they wanted to get the information out to beekeepers as quickly as possible.
He hopes to see more widespread bee screening and plans to work toward creating a “CDC for honey bees” — a global diagnostic center that compiles information about honey bees and the organisms that affect them.