Superinfection exclusion and the long-term survival of honey bees in Varroa-infested colonies

Gideon J. Mordecai, Laura E. Brettell, Stephen J. Martin, David Dixon, Ian M. Jones, Declan C. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations

Abstract

Over the past 50 years, many millions of European honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies have died as the ectoparasitic mite, Varroa destructor, has spread around the world. Subsequent studies have indicated that the mite's association with a group of RNA viral pathogens (Deformed Wing Virus, DWV) correlates with colony death. Here, we propose a phenomenon known as superinfection exclusion that provides an explanation of how certain A. mellifera populations have survived, despite Varroa infestation and high DWV loads. Next-generation sequencing has shown that a non-lethal DWV variant 'type B' has become established in these colonies and that the lethal 'type A' DWV variant fails to persist in the bee population. We propose that this novel stable host-pathogen relationship prevents the accumulation of lethal variants, suggesting that this interaction could be exploited for the development of an effective treatment that minimises colony losses in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1182-1191
Number of pages10
JournalISME Journal
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

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