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World’s First Insect Vaccine Could Help Bees Fight Off Deadly Disease

Story shared from National Public Radio
insect vaccinesResearchers say they’ve found a way to let queen bees pass on immunity to a devastating disease called American foulbrood. The infectious disease is so deadly, many states and beekeeping groups recommend burning any hive that’s been infected. Here, a frame from a normal hive is seen in a photo from 2017.  |  Bernadett Szabo/Reuters

Bees may soon get an ally in their fight against bacterial disease — one of the most serious threats the pollinators face — in the form of an edible vaccine. That’s the promise held out by researchers in Finland, who say they’ve made the first-ever vaccine for insects, aimed at helping struggling honeybee populations.

The scientists are targeting one of bees’ most deadly enemies: American foulbrood, or AFB, an infectious disease that devastates hives and can spread at a calamitous rate. Often introduced by nurse bees, the disease works by bacteria feeding on larvae — and then generating more spores, to spread further.

The idea of a potential new weapon to fight AFB has generated excitement in the beekeeping community, along with some skepticism about the claim of a vaccine — which remains in the testing phase. The news comes three years after the same researchers were hailed in Entomology Today as discovering the “key to bee vaccination.”

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