Providing an inexpensive technique to identify unknown viruses in bee populations.

The scientists developed a novel high-throughput sequencing technique that efficiently detected in bees both previously identified and 27 never-seen-before viruses belonging to at least six new families in a single experiment. Image: Jeff Kerby / National Geographic Society

The scientists developed a novel high-throughput sequencing technique that efficiently detected in bees both previously identified and 27 never-seen-before viruses belonging to at least six new families in a single experiment. Image: Jeff Kerby / National Geographic Society

Team: Christina Grozinger, David Galbraith, Zachary Fuller, Allyson Ray, Maryann Frazier, J. Francisco Iturralde Martinez, Harland Patch, Cristina Rosa, Joyce Sakamoto, Scott Stanley, Anthony Vaudo, and collaborators from additional institutions

Populations of bees around the world are declining, and viruses are known to contribute to these declines. Despite the importance of bees as pollinators of flowering plants in agricultural and natural landscapes and the importance of viruses to bee health, our understanding of bee viruses is surprisingly limited.

An international team of researchers collected samples of DNA and RNA from 12 bee species in nine countries around the world. Next, they developed a novel high-throughput sequencing technique that efficiently detected in a single experiment both previously identified and 27 never-before-seen viruses belonging to at least six new families. The new method allowed the team to sequence all the viruses present in a sample without having any prior knowledge about what might be there.

The findings could help scientists design strategies to prevent the spread of viral pathogens among these important pollinators. The results also highlight the importance of monitoring bee populations brought into the United States because of the potential for these species to transmit viruses to local pollinator populations. The new viruses identified can now be used in screening processes to monitor bee health around the world. Because the cost of high-throughput sequencing continues to decrease, the team’s approach provides an inexpensive and efficient technique for other researchers to identify additional unknown viruses in bee populations around the world. The team plans to do further research to determine whether the viruses are actively infecting the bees and if the bees may be passing viruses to crop plants.

Funding

National Geographic Society; USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; USDA NIFA and Hatch Appropriations

News

Scientists find evidence of 27 new viruses in bees

Thematic Research Area

Environmental Resilience

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