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Honey as a Source of Environmental DNA for the Detection and Monitoring of Honey Bee Pathogens and Parasites

Abstract: Environmental DNA (eDNA) has been proposed as a powerful tool to detect and monitor cryptic, elusive, or invasive organisms. We recently demonstrated that honey constitutes an easily accessible source of eDNA. In this study, we extracted DNA from 102 honey samples (74 from Italy and 28 from 17 other countries of all continents) and tested the presence of DNA of nine honey bee pathogens and parasites (Paenibacillus larvae, Melissococcus plutonius, Nosema apis, Nosema ceranae, Ascosphaera apis, Lotmaria passim, Acarapis woodi, Varroa destructor, and Tropilaelaps spp.) using qualitative PCR assays. All honey samples contained DNA from V. destructor, confirming the widespread diffusion of this mite. None of the samples gave positive amplifications for N. apis, A. woodi, and Tropilaelaps spp. M. plutonius was detected in 87% of the samples, whereas the other pathogens were detected in 43% to 57% of all samples. The frequency of Italian samples positive for P. larvae was significantly lower (49%) than in all other countries (79%). The co-occurrence of positive samples for L. passim and A. apis with N. ceranae was significant. This study demonstrated that honey eDNA can be useful to establish monitoring tools to evaluate the sanitary status of honey bee populations.

5. Conclusions

This study reported for the first time an extensive use of honey eDNA to design epidemiological and monitoring approaches for pathogens and parasites with the final objective of obtaining a general picture of the sanitary status of the honey bee populations at macro-levels (i.e., apiary, beekeeper, regions, countries, continents). Using this unconventional approach, we also obtained, for the first time, a comprehensive analysis (even if preliminary) of the distribution and frequency of several pathogens and parasites in Italy. It will be useful (i) to refine and improve the applied assays, adding methods to detect other pathogens, (ii) to increase the number of the analysed honey samples to improve the interpretation of the results, and (iii) to correlate the results derived by the DNA analyses with the situations in the colony and/or apiary and epidemiological data and distribution of pathogens and parasites in a region that could be obtained from direct observations. The results of this study on the distribution, co-occurrence and prevalence of some of the targeted pathogens and parasites should be interpreted, considering that honey bee health threats cannot be regarded as local problems.

Anisa Ribani, Valerio Joe Utzeri, Valeria Taurisano, Luca Fontanesi, Honey as a Source of Environmental DNA for the Detection and Monitoring of Honey Bee Pathogens and Parasites, Vet. Sci. 2020, 7(3), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/vetsci7030113
https://www.mdpi.com/2306-7381/7/3/113/htm
 

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Doesn't it say that -None of the samples gave positive amplifications for N. apis, A. woodi, and Tropilaelaps spp.- ?
Which to me is even more surprising.
 

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So, basically, honey contains all kinds of poop.
LOL.
Fine by me.
 
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