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J Invertebr Pathol. 2007 Mar;94(3):211-7. Epub 2007 Jan 10.

Experimental infection of Apis mellifera honeybees with Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia).

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Regional Apicultural Center, Dirección General de la Producción Agropecuaria, Consejería de Agricultura, Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha, Marchamalo, Guadalajara, Spain.


In this report, an experimental infection of Apis mellifera by Nosema ceranae, a newly reported microsporidian in this host is described. Nosema free honeybees were inoculated with 125,000 N. ceranae spores, isolated from heavily infected bees. The parasite species was identified by amplification and sequencing the SSUrRNA gene of the administered spores. Three replicate cages of 20 honeybees each were prepared, along with one control cage (n=20) supplied with sugar syrup only. The infection rate was 100% at the dosage administered. The presence of Nosema inside ventricular cells was confirmed in the samples using ultrathin sectioning and transmission electron microscopy. By day 3 p.i. a few cells (4.4%+/-1.2) were observed to be parasitized, whereas by 6 days p.i. more than half of the counted cells (66.4%+/-6) showed different parasite stages, this value increasing on day 7 p.i. (81.5%+/-14.8). Only one control bee died on day 7 p.i. In the infected groups, mortality was not observed until day 6 p.i. (66.7%+/-5.6). Total mortality on day 7 p.i. was 94.1% in the three infected replicates and by day 8 p.i. no infected bee was alive. After the infection, the parasites invaded both the tip of folds and the basal cells of the epithelium and the autoinfective capacity of the spores seemed to spread the infection rapidly between epithelial cells. On day 3 p.i., mature spores could be seen inside host cell tissue implying that the developmental cycle had been completed. The large number of parasitized cells, even the regenerative ones, the presence of autoinfective spores and the high mortality rate demonstrate that N. ceranae is highly pathogenic to Apis mellifera. Possible relation with bee depopulation syndrome is discussed by authors.

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