When it comes to vaccinating their babies, bees don’t have a choice – they naturally immunize their offspring against specific diseases found in their environments. And now for the first time, scientists have discovered how they do it.
Researchers from Arizona State University, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä and Norwegian University of Life Sciences made the discovery after studying a bee blood protein called vitellogenin. The scientists found that this protein plays a critical, but previously unknown role in providing bee babies protection against disease.
The findings appear today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.
Caption: With the discovery of how bees naturally vaccinate their babies, researchers can now develop the first vaccine for insects. This vaccine could be used to fight serious diseases that decimate beehives. This is an important development for food production. Credit: Christofer Bang
“The process by which bees transfer immunity to their babies was a big mystery until now. What we found is that it’s as simple as eating,” said Gro Amdam, a professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and co-author of the paper. “Our amazing discovery was made possible because of 15 years of basic research on vitellogenin. This exemplifies how long-term investments in basic research pay off.”