A vaccine for bees has been approved in the United States, the first step to prevent their disappearance
The global decline in bee populations, one of the largest pollinators with more than 20,000 species, could stabilize after the recent approval of a vaccine which gives hope in the management and control of pathologies in these insects.
A few weeks ago, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) licensed the first vaccine against the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, which causes "American foulbrood", a highly virulent and contagious disease of bacterial origin, present in almost 80% of beehives worldwide and capable of killing entire apiaries, if not is properly diagnosed.
This is "magnificent" news, he told EFE, Raúl Rivas González Professor of Microbiology at the University of Salamanca, who points out that the vaccine is a tool to prevent the disease from spreading, but not to eliminate it: It is a type of environmental bacteria that does not need to infect bees to survive.
What the vaccine will do -Rivas clarifies- is protect commercial pollinators -some fifty species of bees are managed by man- from deadly diseases, in addition to reducing the financial and material losses of beekeepers, but above all facilitating the viability of the planet.
"Once a hive shows the clinical manifestation of the disease, the only effective way to eradicate and prevent the spread of the disease is to burn the hive and colony."
At this point, the professor specifies that the global economic value of crop pollination by bees and other pollinators obtains an average of more than 200,000 million euros, 10% of the global agricultural production of food for humans.
Bees can get sick from multiple causes: abiotic factorss -non-living components of an ecosystem, such as atmospheric conditions, water resources, agrochemicals, pesticides...) although the most important element is undoubtedly biotics -living organisms that influence an ecosystem-.
When the bacteria causing the american foulbrood finds itself in life-threatening situations, it develops resistance structures within it in the form of endoesporasas a strategy for survival, and that can remain viable in the environment for decades.
Upon contact with bees, the spores germinate and give rise to a bacterial cell of this species with the capacity to reproduce and, therefore, to act as a bee pathogen and kill them in a few hours.
How are bees infected?
"In an easy way," Rivas clarifies: For example, when the bees expel the dead larvae from the hive, what they do is take the bacteria or the spores with them or when the nurse bees feed the larvae with food previously contaminated by spores.
How is the vaccine applied?
For apply this vaccine, composed of dead cells of the bacterium, it is introduced into the hives food for queen bees with doses of the vaccine and which has been shown to act at the level of the queen's ovaries, transmitting transgenerational immunity to the eggs she lays.
"From now on, immunization will try to prevent the disease from spreading," emphasized the expert, who pointed out that all the trials and analyzes carried out to date point to the vaccine having a significant effectiveness percentage, around to 50 percent, and that is "outrageous" for a vaccine of this type.
In his opinion, it is an important step, but the way is long, because unfortunately there are many diseases that affect bees, regrets Raúl Rivas, to specify that, for the moment, in Spain, its use has not begun, before it has to be approved by Europe.
A world without these pollinators would be "unviable, there would be no future", says the expert to explain that a critical percentage of plants are pollinated by insects and if these did not exist, the population and diversity would drop alarmingly, with all that This means for the planet.