Prevention and Treatment of American Foulbrood Disease (AFB) in Honeybees


Invention Summary

The invention relates to materials and methods for treating and preventing American Foulbrood disease (AFB) in honeybees, and more particularly for using phage to lyse Paenibacillus larvae in honeybees. A bacteriophage is a virus that destroys bacteria by lysis. Several varieties exist, and each typically attacks only one species/strain of bacteria. Infecting phage attach themselves to the cell wall of the bacterium and inject their genetic material into the cytoplasm of the bacterium. The DNA/RNA carries the genetic code of the virus, and rapid multiplication of the virus takes place inside the bacterium. The growing viruses act as parasites, using the metabolism of the bacterial cell for growth and development. Eventually the bacterial cell bursts, releasing many more viruses capable of destroying similar bacteria. Paenibacillus larvae in honeybees can be lysed by introducing phage into a bee hive, such that the phage can physically associate with and lyse the Paenibacillus larvae. None of the phages infected other bacteria or higher organisms. Thus, although the word “virus” can have a negative connotation, in this case, viruses are a potential means to control the bacterium and, thereby, treat Paenibacillus larvae infection.


Market Opportunity

Honeybees pollinate agricultural crops and native plant species around the world. Without the effort of the bees, many food supplies would suffer. American Foulbrood disease (AFB) is found worldwide. Infection with Paenibacillus larvae is a serious disease of honeybees that eventually destroys the infected hive and further infects other hives. AFB affects the earliest stages of the larval development, just after the eggs are hatched. The young larvae are digested from the inside out by the bacteria. With the loss of the brood, the colony has no chance to recover. Various treatments have been used for AFB, including antibiotics such as Oxytetracycline HCl and Tylosin tetrate. The bacteria quickly became resistant to the antibiotic, however, and residue from the chemicals has been found in honey. Thus, such treatment is not acceptable to the public. Additionally, the introduction of antibiotics into the environment can have serious secondary effects, such as causing other bacteria to develop general resistance to antibiotics. The primary current treatment for the presence of Paenibacillus larvae is burning of the hives, the bees, and the equipment used to support the beekeeping of that hive.


Features & Benefits

  • Phages generally have specific targets, and thus may have a low likelihood of affecting eukaryotic host cells and natural microbiota of the eukaryotic host.
  • Only small doses may be needed, and they may be readily provided on polysaccharide biofilms.
  • Phages are naturally occurring.

Intellectual Property        Patent filed


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
John Minnick
Business Development Officer
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Penny Amy
Lucy LeBlanc
Life Science - Agriculture
Life Science - Health
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