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J Invertebr Pathol. 2007 Sep;96(1):1-10. Epub 2007 Mar 12.

Widespread dispersal of the microsporidian Nosema ceranae, an emergent pathogen of the western honey bee, Apis mellifera.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, UK. j.klee@qub.ac.uk


The economically most important honey bee species, Apis mellifera, was formerly considered to be parasitized by one microsporidian, Nosema apis. Recently, [Higes, M., Martín, R., Meana, A., 2006. Nosema ceranae, a new microsporidian parasite in honeybees in Europe, J. Invertebr. Pathol. 92, 93-95] and [Huang, W.-F., Jiang, J.-H., Chen, Y.-W., Wang, C.-H., 2007. A Nosema ceranae isolate from the honeybee Apis mellifera. Apidologie 38, 30-37] used 16S (SSU) rRNA gene sequences to demonstrate the presence of Nosema ceranae in A. mellifera from Spain and Taiwan, respectively. We developed a rapid method to differentiate between N. apis and N. ceranae based on PCR-RFLPs of partial SSU rRNA. The reliability of the method was confirmed by sequencing 29 isolates from across the world (N =9 isolates gave N. apis RFLPs and sequences, N =20 isolates gave N. ceranae RFLPs and sequences; 100% correct classification). We then employed the method to analyze N =115 isolates from across the world. Our data, combined with N =36 additional published sequences demonstrate that (i) N. ceranae most likely jumped host to A. mellifera, probably within the last decade, (ii) that host colonies and individuals may be co-infected by both microsporidia species, and that (iii) N. ceranae is now a parasite of A. mellifera across most of the world. The rapid, long-distance dispersal of N. ceranae is likely due to transport of infected honey bees by commercial or hobbyist beekeepers. We discuss the implications of this emergent pathogen for worldwide beekeeping.

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