Bees Vaccinate Their Babies Naturally

Posted: Aug 3 2015, 6:54am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 3 2015, 6:56am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Bees Vaccinate Their Babies Naturally
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Bees immunize their young ones via a natural method.

Bees vaccinate their young. And they do it through a natural method. Now scientists have found the way through which bees immunize their babies. A bee blood protein termed vitellogenin got put under the scrutiny of the microscope. This protein provided immunity to baby bees against all sorts of diseases. Until now the process had been a mystery. But now things are far more clearer than before.

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a vitellogenin. Their findings published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

The method of passing on immunity against diseases is as simple as nutrition. Now after a decade of research, scientists have come closer to solving the riddle. And it is a wonderful feeling to know that the answer was in plain sight all along.

“The process by which bees transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it’s as simple as eating,” said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper.

“Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off.”

Co-author Dalial Freitak, a postdoctoral researcher with University of Helsinki adds: “I have been working on bee immune priming since the start of my doctoral studies. Now almost 10 years later, I feel like I’ve solved an important part of the puzzle. It’s a wonderful and very rewarding feeling!”

Photo by: Christofer Bang

A bee colony has its roles set for each member. The queen bee never leaves the nest. The worker bees bring food to the queen bee. Various diseases may get transferred along the way. The infected pollen forms royal jelly.

This is for the consumption of the queen bee. The queen bee digests the royal jelly. She stores the harmful bacteria in a liver-like organ.

Parts of the bacteria get carried to the baby bees via the protein vitellogenin. Thus the baby bees get immunized against any sort of disease. The process is subtle. The researchers didn’t even know about vitellogenin. But now thanks to its discovery, a huge part of the puzzle is solved.

Many bees are still subject to disease-carrying vectors in the external world. Now scientists will be able to create vaccines for insect populations. These will have an edible nature. A cocktail of chemical enzymes would help the bees stave off disease after they have eaten it.

Bees are currently in deep trouble. Diseases are multiplying among their populations. Bees are the prime pollinators. They are of utmost importance for mankind’s food supply. Their dwindling population spells trouble for humanity.

These humble insects play such a key role in the economy of any nation. They should be protected against the harmful effects of disease at all costs. The discovery of vitellogenin is of prime importance. The era of artificial vaccines for bees and other insects has dawned. These hardworking insects will be lent a helping hand by man.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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