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SCIENCE
Published December 06, 2018
Last Update 10 hrs ago

Scientists create edible honey bee vaccine to protect them from deadly diseases


By Madeline Farber | Fox News



Honey bees pollinate a variety of crops, such as apples and melons.



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The first-ever vaccine for insects now exists, thanks to scientists at the University of Helsinki in Finland hoping to save one of the most crucial pollinators in the world: the honey bee.
The vaccine, which is edible, “protects bees from diseases while protecting global food production,” the university said in a news release. The goal, researchers said, is to protect the bees against American foulbrood, “a bacterial disease caused by the spore-forming Paenibacillus larvae ssp. Larvae.”
The disease is the “most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases,” the university added.
HONEYBEES, IN DECLINE FOR DECADES, FINDING NEW HOMES IN UNUSUAL PLACES
Bloomberg reported the disease can kill “entire colonies” while its “spores can remain viable for more than 50 years.”
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To distribute the vaccine, scientists place a sugar patty in the hive, which the queen then eats over the course of about a week. Once ingested, the pathogens in the patty are then passed into the queen’s eggs, “where they work as inducers for future immune responses,” the university explained in the statement.
The vaccine — which is not yet sold commercially, according to Bloomberg — is also significant because it was once not thought possible to develop a vaccine for insects, as these creatures’ immune systems do not contain antibodies.
"Now we've discovered the mechanism to show that you can actually vaccinate them. You can transfer a signal from one generation to another," Dalial Freitak, a University of Helsinki scientist who worked to create the vaccine, said in a statement.
Honey bees are important to the U.S. crop production, contributing an estimated $20 billion to its value, according to the American Beekeeping Foundation. The species pollinate a variety of crops, including apples, melons, blueberries and cherries — the latter two are “90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination,” according to the foundation.
“One crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time,” the American Beekeeping Foundation added.
The honey bee population in North America has been affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) disease, mites and possibly the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to the Harvard University Library.
TENNESSEE 'BEE WHISPERER' REMOVES 35,000 HONEY BEES FROM BRICK WALL
On average, beekeepers in the U.S. lost an estimated 40 percent of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2017 to April 2018, according to Bee Informed, a nationwide collaboration of research efforts to better understand the decline of honeybees.
"We need to help honey bees, absolutely. Even improving their life a little would have a big effect on the global scale. Of course, the honeybees have many other problems as well: pesticides, habitat loss and so on, but diseases come hand in hand with these life-quality problems,” Freitak said.
“If we can help honey bees to be healthier and if we can save even a small part of the bee population with this invention, I think we have done our good deed and saved the world a little bit," Freitak added.


 

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Would be great if it really works. But aren't a queen's eggs already formed when she becomes sexually mature? Or does she make more of them as she goes along? In many species, eggs aren't produced continuously like sperm are.

It would seem a very high bar to surmount to add some kind of vaccine-like protection to eggs that already existed.

AFB is nasty, but I don't think it is the major cause of bee-losses these days. At least not while commercial beeks were/or still are routinely treating with antibiotics. Of course that may be in the process of changing. And in Finland, like all of the EU, I think treatment is banned, anyway.

Interesting idea, however, thanks for posting it.

Nancy
 

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And honey bee Vitellogenin may well play a future role in being the vehicle that transfers deadly biological or synthetic substances specific to varroa mites as alluded to by Dr. Ramsey
Interesting stuff this vitellogenin.
 

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I wonder if it is passed down multiple generations. If so and if it works without unexpected negative side effects, it could get into wild populations and possibly eradicate AFB over time.
 

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As a (human) immunologist I've been fascinated by this report. Unfortunately, the inventors are holding their cards close, so few details are available (likely waiting on patents, I'd guess). I spent the weekend reading what was available, and while the exact details of the discovery remain unlcear, I can answer a few of the questions raised in this thread.

Firstly though, this is not a vaccine in the conventional sense - insects lack the immune mechanisms we have that allow for their immune system to "remember' past pathogen encounters in a way which lets them respond more effectively if the pathogen is re-encountered. In humans, we call this "adaptive immunity", and it relies on genetic recombination to make entirely new receptors which recognise pathogens. Insects don't do this (adaptive immunity is a 'new' [vertebrate] invention).

Instead, bees rely on older "innate immunity" mechanisms (which we also have). In insects there are three major forms of innate immunity - pattern recognition receptors (PRRs, which bind to evolutionary conserved structures on pathogens), antimicrobial peptide (which bind to and lyse pathogens), and phagocytosis (where immune cells "eat" pathogens). These components are not separate from each other, and for example, PRRs will often 'tag' pathogens to be eaten by immune cells.

This "vaccine" takes advantage of all of these immune mechanisms to protect the egg and developing larva. Normally, the various components of the queens immune system are excluded from the egg. The one exception to this is vitellogenin - a major yolk protein in the egg whose major job is to provide nutrients to the developing larva, but which also serves as a PRR. In bees hemolymph, vitellogenin binds to the outer membranes of many types of bacteria (i.e. is a PRR), tagging them for phagocytosis. Vitellogenin also binds fragments of pathogens, and can deliver them to sites where the bee makes other immune proteins like antimicrobial peptide, "telling" the bees immune system to ramp up production of those factors. In the queen, vitellogenin can deliver these fragments of bacteria to the egg, which in turn tells the egg to start importing antimicrobial peptides from the queen.

The exact details of the "vaccine" are not published, but based on what has been said it is likely that the vaccine is comprised of cell wall (AKA peptidoglycan) from AFB, conjugated to some sort of molecule that allows the cell wall material to cross the gut wall of the bee, into the hemolymph where it would then be able to be bound by vitellogenin, allowing it to then be taken up by the eggs and inducing in the egg an anti-pathogen response. Presumably this means that enough is fed to the queen by the workers to make it work - again, no field trials have been published, with the data available to-date consisting of isolated eggs soaked in worker-derived hemolymph spiked with vitellogenin + bacterial fragments. Presumably some sort of field work has been conducted in the ~3.5 years since the study this vaccine is based on was published, but those details are not publicly available.

Would be great if it really works. But aren't a queen's eggs already formed when she becomes sexually mature?
The eggs continually take up nutrients and other factors throughout development in the queen, pretty much right up until the egg is laid. Vitellogenin is the major nutritional protein in the eggs, and is taken up by the egg in large quantities right up until the egg is laid.

I wonder if it is passed down multiple generations. If so and if it works without unexpected negative side effects, it could get into wild populations and possibly eradicate AFB over time.
It won't work in this fashion; there is no "memory" in the bee immune system, and rather, the product would need to be fed to hives any time you want to protect against AFB. There may be single-generation "memory" (e.g. once vaccinated, all eggs laid by one queen are protected), but there is no mechanism for immunity to continue longer than that.
 

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Instead, bees rely on older "innate immunity" mechanisms (which we also have). In insects there are three major forms of innate immunity - pattern recognition receptors (PRRs, which bind to evolutionary conserved structures on pathogens), antimicrobial peptide (which bind to and lyse pathogens), and phagocytosis (where immune cells "eat" pathogens). These components are not separate from each other, and for example, PRRs will often 'tag' pathogens to be eaten by immune cells.
Could this "innate immunity" reaction happen in a situation when beestock is for years affected by heavy AFB pressure, that for instance spores of AFB in honey?
 

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Sui
If the workers produced by the "vaccinated" queen contain the protection would it not also be passed on to queen larvae fed by the bees in the same way they (the original workers who ate the sugar and passed the material to the queen in feeding royal jelly) fed the queen? Or if grafting from that protected queen wouldn't the queens produced contain the protection?
 

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Recent findings have provided evidence for the existence of non-vertebrate acquired immunity: e.g. trans-generational immune priming.
Sort-of, but not really. Some insects have the Dscam system of immunity, which allows for them to use genetic recombination to make new immune receptors that recognise bacteria. However, there doesn't appear to be "memory" in this system, meaning it cannot be trained in the same way that the human/vertibrate adaptive immune system can.

We also don't know if bees have this system; they have the gene, but in bees it appears to only be active in the nervous system and is highly divergent from species known to be able to utilise it for immunity (fruit flies and mosquito).

Could this "innate immunity" reaction happen in a situation when beestock is for years affected by heavy AFB pressure, that for instance spores of AFB in honey?
Any time an adult or maturing larva is infected, this response occurs. So if a queen were infected with AFB, this "vaccination" would likely occur. However, the insect gut normally acts to keep pathogens and pathogen fragments out, so an infected worker (or a worker feeding the queen infected food) would not result in the immunity being passed onto the egg. The issue with AFB is it infects early larva, prior to the development of their own immune system. The "vaccine" gets around that issue by pre-storing a lot of maternal-proiduced antimicrobrials in the egg, meaning that the early stages of larval development are protected by the maternal immunity proteins.

Sui
If the workers produced by the "vaccinated" queen contain the protection would it not also be passed on to queen larvae fed by the bees in the same way they (the original workers who ate the sugar and passed the material to the queen in feeding royal jelly) fed the queen? Or if grafting from that protected queen wouldn't the queens produced contain the protection?
Not likely. For this "vaccine" to work the queen has to have enough of this material in her hemolymph (blood) to provide a sufficient amount to each egg to induce the uptake of antimicrobrial peptides into the egg. For this to work in subsequent generations, there would need to be enough of the "vaccine" in the egg which gave rise to the new queen to then "inoculate" all of the eggs she subsiquently produces. This is unlikely, given the small volume of the egg compared to the size of the queen (e.g. the vaccine will be diluted out as the queen grows), and given that the active component in the vaccine will have a finite lifespan (e.g. the vaccine will breakdown over time).

Also, assuming that the inventors followed normal drug-development methods to make the vaccine orally available, its likely a 1-way trip for the vaccine - e.g. its been modified to pass through the gut and into the hemolymph; but probably cannot pass back out again.
 

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A sign that a person really knows a subject is the fact that he/she can explain it using words that ordinary folks understand.

Well done SuiGeneris.

Bill
 
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