Honey Bee Vaccine to be Available This Spring
Bees play a crucial role in agriculture thanks to their important work as crop pollinators. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates bee pollination accounts for around $15 billion in added crop value.
However, the species is susceptible to disease, and American foulbrood has already destroyed entire colonies. The FDA classifies it as “one of the most widespread diseases affecting honey bee brood, and the most destructive.”
Previously, beekeepers relied on antibiotics to control the disease, but these had limited efficacy. Once a hive begins to show signs of the disease, the only way to prevent its spread is by burning the hive, equipment and colony.
“This is an exciting step forward for beekeepers, as we rely on antibiotic treatment that has limited effectiveness and requires lots of time and energy to apply to our hives,” said Trevor Tauzer, owner of Tauzer Apiaries and board member of the California State Beekeepers Association in a release.
“If we can prevent an infection in our hives, we can avoid costly treatments and focus our energy on other important elements of keeping our bees healthy.”
Challenges with global population growth and changing climates underscore the importance of maintaining honeybee pollination to secure food supply, added Annette Kleiser, CEO of Dalan Animal Health.
In North America alone, honeybees pollinate 95 different crops, including avocados, almonds, apples and soy.
The company plans to administer the vaccine on a limited basis to commercial beekeepers and hopes to make it available for purchase in the United States this year.
The approval follows positive results of a randomized clinical trial published in October 2022, which showed the vaccine protects against American foulbrood through a process called transgenerational immune priming. In this process, maternal organisms transfer pathogen immunity to the next generation.
The vaccine contains killed whole-cell Paenibacillus larvae bacteria. To vaccinate the bees, the vaccine is mixed into queen feed, which is consumed by worker bees. These worker bees then incorporate the vaccine into royal jelly and feed it to the queen.
Once ingested, fragments of the vaccine are deposited in the queen’s ovaries, meaning developing larvae have immunity when they hatch, researchers explained. In the laboratory tests, researchers saw an up to 50 percent increase in disease resistance among offspring.
Source: The Hill