The world’s first vaccine for honeybees has been approved by the U.S. government that helps protect honeybees from a deadly bacterial disease.
The new vaccine raises hopes of a new tool to help fight diseases that routinely ravage colonies that are relied upon for food pollination.
The important development comes as the U.S. and other countries have seen declines in bee colonies, which play a vital role in agriculture. One-third of the global food supply relies on pollination, and healthy commercial hives are essential to secure high crop yields.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted the conditional license for the vaccine developed by biotech firm Dalan Animal Health.
The vaccine was developed in an effort to stop the spread of American foulbrood disease, caused by Paenibacillus larvae bacterium, which can weaken and destroy hives. It’s a serious disease that currently has no cure.
And in parts of the U.S., it has been found in a whopping quarter of beehives. The disease originated in the U.S. and has since spread around the world.
This has required beekeepers to destroy and burn any infected colonies and administer antibiotics to prevent further spread.
The vaccine works by incorporating some of the bacteria into the royal jelly fed by worker bees to the queen, which then ingests it and gains some of the vaccines in the ovaries. The developing bee larvae then have immunity to foulbrood as they hatch, with studies suggesting this will reduce death rates from the disease.
The breakthrough could be used to find vaccines for other bee-related diseases, such as the European version of foulbrood.
The vaccine containing killed whole-cell Paenibacillus larvae bacteria is administered by mixing it into queen feed that’s consumed by worker bees.
The absence of bees would pose a threat to crops that rely on pollination, global food security, and human nutrition.