A Vaccine to Shield Threatened Honeybees from Disease

August 17, 2015

From: Scientific American

Researchers have learned how bees kick-start immune systems in offspring, and think it could lead to a protective drug

By Ida Emilie Steinmark and ChemistryWorld

Bees use an egg yolk protein to prime their offspring’s immune system against different pathogens, Finnish researchers have discovered. This deeper understanding of how honeybee immune systems function means that a bee ‘vaccine’ capable of protecting pollinators against disease is now potentially within reach.


‘We were dancing in the lab,’ Dalial Freitak, main author of the paper, says of the day the results came in. ‘It was like winning the lottery!’ The team had discovered that vitellogenin, a protein also found in egg yolk, finds and binds the signature molecules of pathogens eaten by the queen bee. These signature molecules are then carried by vitellogenin into the queen’s eggs, where they work as primers for future immune responses. The breakthrough has allowed researchers to start working on bee vaccines.

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