Scientists say vulture bees may have unique ways to prevent pathogens

Humans carry a little probiotic and antifungal bacteria that help them survive digestion. Could vulture bees have something similar? Catching the disease lyssavirus, one of the most deadly diseases to bee colonies, is a haunting and debilitating experience. But, if researchers are correct, it might not have to be.

According to a new study, vulture bees may possess and use a special, resilient “apiofilolog” that is able to avoid the dangerous virus without killing any of the bees that spread it. Infected bees may turn gray and die off, but healthy bees around them continue to live. When researchers found these naturally resistant bees, they had to sterilize their nests, and since the researchers sampled bees from several different locations, they believed the apiopollini could not all be resistant. However, after they reported the results in the Journal of General Virology, a team of German scientists, assisted by researchers from the University of Kansas, set about finding out if others were similarly successful.

While it may not help bee colonies, the research may also help veterinary and medical researchers understand the role viruses play in controlling the health of hive bees, and how to protect them against the diseases that threaten the bee population. While vulture bees are capable of carrying the lyssavirus for a significant amount of time, the endurance, mutation-free, and resistance to the virus likely owe more to a sensitive suite of gut bacteria, according to researchers, and not an entirely immune system. But, since vulture bees are not a known insect or mammal to have the disease, there isn’t much we have to work with when it comes to determining the worms or bacteria infecting them.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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