Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Using science to save the bees and the world


Oh no! Science is evil! It is dispassionate and logical and wants to sacrifice your children!! Or not?

Scientists say that mass bee deaths may be caused by viruses that disrupt gene expression.

The team analysed which genes were turned on and which were turned off in healthy bees and those from hives with colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Since 2006, CCD has caused the catastrophic loss of US bee hives and is implicated in bee deaths elsewhere.

Writing in PNAS journal, the team say they used "whole genome microarrays" to compare cells from bees' guts.

Lead scientist May Berenbaum from the University of Illinois told BBC News that the research was made possible by publication of the bee genome in 2006.


"So maybe what's happening is basically the ribosome wears out. So we looked to see if the CCD bees have more of these viruses than healthy bees. And they do.

The viruses in question include "deformed wing virus" and "Israeli acute paralysis virus".

The scientists believe that if a number of similar picorna-like viruses attack simultaneously, they may be able to overwhelm the ribosome.

"We talk about a smoking gun. We have the bullet hole!" said May Berenbaum.

"We now need to look for how multiple viruses might interact on the ribosome."

The honey bee is the US's key agricultural pollinator. As such it is worth $14bn to the country's economy.

CCD was first identified in 2006. In the winter of 2007-8 more than a third of US bees were lost.

Similar losses have been reported in Europe, giving rise to fears that CCD is a global problem.


Mike Goldman said...

What do the pesticides and other chemicals do to bees natural immunity? Blaming the virus may be kind of missing the point.

ellroon said...

As you say, Mike, pesticides weaken the overworked and stressed bees. Then the viruses kill them.

Canary in the coal mine, anyone?

Mike Goldman said...

Yes, exactly.

Blaming the virus is almost like washing our hands of responsibility. And treating a single viral cause without addressing the chemical warfare being waged upon them is just not going to solve the problem, they'll only get another virus.

Epidemics spread due to environmental conditions.

ellroon said...

This is a multi-layered problem that shows how we poison ourselves in so many ways. Hope the bees survive... because if they go, we go.