The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has granted a conditional license for the vaccination of honey bees against deadly infectious diseases such as American Foulbrood to a biotech company pioneering insect health.
Headquartered in Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia’s Innovation Hub, Dalan Animal Health uses a transgenerational immune priming approach whereby the maternal animal passes immune modulators (e.g., antigens, anti-microbial molecules) to the next generation larvae before they hatch, Businesswire explains.
This new, sustainable honey bee vaccine technology could revolutionize the beekeeping industry, which has been plagued by significant decline in honey bee colonies for at least fifteen years.
Sustainable vaccine technology for honey bees
According to vaccine developer Dalan, their honey bee vaccine is clinically tested, chemical free, non-GMO, organic, and easy to use.
The product is administered orally to the honey bees, by mixing it into queen feed and putting it into the queen cages together with the queen and worker bees.
The mix is consumed by worker bees, who produce the royal jelly that they feed to their queen. In that way, the vaccine is transferred to the queen’s fat body and deposited in her ovaries. Having been exposed to the vaccine, the developing larvae have immunity as they hatch.
The technology used in the vaccine exposes queen bees to inactive (“dead”) bacteria, which enables the larvae hatched in the hive to resist infection. In tests, this immune priming, as it is called, showed no negative impact on queen fitness, and no negative impact on honey either.
Honey bees in peril worldwide
This decline, also known as Colony Collapse Disorder, poses a serious threat to the entire food chain, as honey bees play a crucial role in agriculture.
Honey bees – wild and domestic – perform about eighty percent of all pollinatination worldwide, particularly for fruits, nuts and vegetables, Greenpeace reports. Thus, smaller honey bee populations anywhere will translate into lower food productivity in that part of the world.
That made the need for a sustainable solution to American Foulbrood outbreaks even more imperative.
The company is now hoping to use its new platform technology to develop vaccines for more insect diseases in the future.