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J Invertebr Pathol. 1999 Jan;73(1):101-6.

The transmission of deformed wing virus between honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) by the ectoparasitic mite varroa jacobsoni Oud

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School of Biological and Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Byrom Street, Liverpool, L3 3AF, United Kingdom.


Under field conditions, Varroa jacobsoni were shown to be highly effective vectors of deformed wing virus (DWV) between bees. Adult female mites obtained from honeybee pupae naturally infected with DWV contained virus titers many times in excess of those found in their hosts and, beyond that, which might be expected from a concentration effect. It is therefore possible that DWV may be capable of replicating within V. jacobsoni. Bees which tested positive for DWV exhibited characteristic morphological deformity and/or they died during pupation. Asymptomatic bees had much lower virus titers than those which were deformed or had died during pupation. It is therefore suggested that for DWV to cause pathology it must be present in pupae above a certain concentration. The amount of DWV vectored by V. jacobsoni will depend on the mites' level of infection, which will in turn depend on whether they had fed previously on dead or deformed bees and also on the rate of replication of the virus within the mites. Consequently, developing bees infested with large numbers of mites could suffer a high incidence of deformity if the mites are heavily infected or harbor an especially virulent strain of virus. A positive relationship was found between increasing numbers of mites on individual bees and the incidence of morphological deformity and death. This probably reflected the large number of viral particles transmitted by the mites, which resulted in many multiply infested bees dying before emergence. These results demonstrate the importance of the role of viruses when considering the pathology of V. jacobsoni and that much of the pathology previously associated with the effects of mite feeding could be attributed directly to secondary pathogens vectored by V. jacobsoni.


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