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J Invertebr Pathol. 2005 Oct;90(2):98-103. Epub 2005 Oct 7.

PCR diagnostic methods for Ascosphaera infections in bees.

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  • 1USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, Logan, UT, USA.


Fungi in the genus Ascosphaera are the causative agents of chalkbrood, a major disease affecting bee larval viability. Identification of individual Ascosphaera species based on morphological features has been difficult due to a lack of distinguishing characteristics. Most identifications are based on the size and shape of the ascomata, spore balls and conidia. Unfortunately, much overlap occurs in the size of these structures, and some Ascosphaera species will not produce sexual structures in vitro. We report a quick and reliable diagnostic method for identifying Ascosphaera infections in Megachile bees (leafcutting bees) using PCR markers that employ genus-specific primers for Ascosphaera, and species-specific primers for species known to be associated with Megachile spp. Using these methods, species identifications can be performed directly on bees, including asymptomatic individuals. Furthermore, the PCR markers can detect co-infections of multiple Ascosphaera species in a single host. We also identified a marker for Ascosphaera apis, the predominant cause of chalkbrood in Apis mellifera, the honey bee. Our diagnostic methods eliminate the need for culturing samples, and could be used to process a large number of field collected bee larvae.

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