The honey bee Apis mellifera plays an important role for the pollination of fruit and vegetable plants, besides its significance for the production of honey and wax. Losses of entire bee colonies during winter have economic and -- in particular -- ecological consequences as pollinators are missing in spring during blossom. Apiculture in North America and Europe is especially affected by partly massive losses. During just the winter months of 2014/2015, up to fifty per cent of all bee colonies in some Austrian regions collapsed. The main trigger of this bee mortality does not seem to be the use of pesticides in modern agriculture. Many studies have shown that the survival of bee colonies strongly depends on the infestation with Varroa mites, widespread blood-sucking parasites, and the transmission of deformed wing virus by these mites. A research group from the Institute of Virology at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has developed a new laboratory system, which enabled them to make an important step forward in the investigation of the virus. By using a molecular clone, they have simulated the course of disease in a targeted way under laboratory conditions. The work is described in an article published online on November 9, 2017 in PLOS One. The open-access article is titled “Construction and Rescue of a Molecular Clone of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).” Up to now, scientists have only used samples of the deformed wing virus, which they had taken from infected bees. "However, mixed and multiple infections can bias the results of such tests," stated lead author Benjamin Lamp, Ph.D. For the new test system, the researchers used artificial genetic material instead of natural samples of the deformed wing virus, in order to clearly correlate the course of disease to the virus.
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