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Metagenomic Analysis Suggests Virus Behind Mysterious Honeybee Pandemic

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — A metagenomic analysis of microbes found in some bee hives suggests that a virus might be responsible for massive, unexplained deaths of honeybee colonies in recent years.
 
Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture, Columbia University, the University of Arizona, Penn State University, and 454 Life Sciences have found a link between the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus and the colony collapse disorder in honeybees by comparing healthy and unhealthy bee colonies collected over three years.
 
In colony collapse disorder, which has affected between 50 percent and 90 percent of the colonies in US beekeeping operations, a colony will mysteriously lose all of its worker bees.
 
The scientists used 454’s sequencer to perform metagenomic surveys of the sequence range of microbial flora in normal hives and hives with CCD.
 
The team searched for “footprints of viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites in thousands of sequences,” Columbia said in a press release.
 
More sequence analysis was conducted to identify possible pathogens and their relationships to CCD.
 
The team reported that the only viruses found in the CCD hives were the Kasmir bee virus and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus, which is transmitted by a species of mite and was not previously reported in the US.
 
Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus was found in all four of the colonies that were affected, and the presence of Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus in a bee sample marked CCD from non-CCD 96 percent of the time.
 
To be sure, the researchers did find the virus in non-CCD hives “in some cases,” and surmised that it could reflect strain variation, co-infection, or the presence of other stressors, such as pesticides or poor nutrition.
 
The research, performed at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, appears in yesterday’s Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science.
 
Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus was first reported in Israel three years ago where symptoms began with shivering wings and progressed to paralysis and death.

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