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J Invertebr Pathol. 2015 Feb;125:9-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jip.2014.12.006. Epub 2014 Dec 16.

Comparative virulence and competition between Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae in honey bees (Apis mellifera).

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Department of Entomology, Natural Science Building, 288 Farm Lane Room 243, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Department of Entomology, Natural Science Building, 288 Farm Lane Room 243, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA; Bee Research and Development Center, N(0) 19 Truc Khe, Lang Ha, Dong Da, Ha Noi, Viet Nam.
Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1816 S. Oak St, Champaign, IL 61820, USA.
Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7613, USA.
Center for Statistical Training and Consulting, 178 Giltner Hall, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.


Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are infected by two species of microsporidia: Nosema apis and Nosemaceranae. Epidemiological evidence indicates that N. ceranae may be replacing N. apis globally in A. mellifera populations, suggesting a potential competitive advantage of N. ceranae. Mixed infections of the two species occur, and little is known about the interactions among the host and the two pathogens that have allowed N. ceranae to become dominant in most geographical areas. We demonstrated that mixed Nosema species infections negatively affected honey bee survival (median survival=15-17days) more than single species infections (median survival=21days and 20days for N. apis and N. ceranae, respectively), with median survival of control bees of 27days. We found similar rates of infection (percentage of bees with active infections after inoculation) for both species in mixed infections, with N. apis having a slightly higher rate (91% compared to 86% for N. ceranae). We observed slightly higher spore counts in bees infected with N. ceranae than in bees infected with N. apis in single microsporidia infections, especially at the midpoint of infection (day 10). Bees with mixed infections of both species had higher spore counts than bees with single infections, but spore counts in mixed infections were highly variable. We did not see a competitive advantage for N. ceranae in mixed infections; N. apis spore counts were either higher or counts were similar for both species and more N. apis spores were produced in 62% of bees inoculated with equal dosages of the two microsporidian species. N. ceranae does not, therefore, appear to have a strong within-host advantage for either infectivity or spore growth, suggesting that direct competition in these worker bee mid-guts is not responsible for its apparent replacement of N. apis.


Co-infection, mixed-infections; Disease transmission, infectivity; Honey bee, Apis mellifera; Microsporidia; Microsporidiosis; Nosema apis; Nosema ceranae

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