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World’s First Honey Bee Vaccine Approved in US

World’s First Honey Bee Vaccine Approved in US. Credit: Greek Reporter

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

Honey bee numbers have been declining for several years as a result of a range of factors,  from deadly mites to habitat destruction and climate change, according to

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.

American Foulbrood, the disease targeted by Dalan’s new vaccine, is among the most devastating bacterial infections for honey bees. Until recently, its outbreaks had been controlled with the routine use of antibiotics.
However, heavy antibiotic usage has its own consequences, such as bacterial resistance and negative effects on overall hive health. Hence, in 2017, the FDA eliminated the prophylactic use of antibiotics, leaving the industry without an effective solution, Dalan  explains on its website.

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.

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