454 Life Sciences has announced that researchers at Columbia University, in collaboration with 454, have identified a virus implicated in the deaths of 2.4 million honeybee colonies – tens of billions of bees – using the company’s Genome Sequencer™ system.
The findings explain how foreign organisms living in and among the bees were identified by reading sequences of DNA isolated from the bee colonies.
The study, entitled "A metagenomic survey of microbes in honey bee colony collapse disorder", appears online ahead of print, in the journal Science. Using 454 Sequencing technology, Dr. Ian Lipkin, Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and colleagues sequenced DNA and RNA samples that were extracted from collapsing and healthy bee colonies in search of any pathogen responsible for the collapse.
The research identified five major bacterial groups, four lineages of fungi and seven types of viruses. While most of the foreign organisms were found in both the collapsed and healthy bee colonies, one virus, Israeli Acute paralysis Paralysis Virus (IAPV), was found only in the collapsed colonies.
As the researchers reported in Science: “We have not proven a causal relationship between any infectious agent and CCD; nonetheless, the prevalence of IAPV sequences in CCD operations, as well as the temporal and geographic overlap of CCD and importation of IAPV infected bees, indicate that IAPV is a significant marker for CCD.”
“Unbiased 454 Sequencing technology enabled us to rapidly assemble a comprehensive inventory of microflora in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and non-CCD populations, and provided the sequence information needed to identify candidate pathogens,” stated Dr. Lipkin. “We view this work as a model for investigating epidemics of unexplained infectious disease”
The observation that irradiated honeycombs from affected colonies could be repopulated with healthy bees, while non-sterilized combs could not, suggested an infectious basis for CCD. Suspected pathogens were screened for association with CCD by examination of samples collected from several sites over a period of three years.