Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Honeybees harbor antibiotic-resistance genes

30.10.2012
Bacteria in the guts of honeybees are highly resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline, probably as a result of decades of preventive antibiotic use in domesticated hives.

Researchers from Yale University identified eight different tetracycline resistance genes among U.S. honeybees that were exposed to the antibiotic, but the genes were largely absent in bees from countries where such antibiotic use is banned. The study appears on October 30 in mBio®, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

"It [resistance] seems to be everywhere in the U.S.," says Nancy Moran of Yale University, a senior author on the study. "There's a pattern here, where the U.S. has these genes and the others don't."

Honeybees the world over are susceptible to the bacterial disease called "foulbrood", which can wipe out a hive faster than beekeepers can react to the infection. In the U.S., beekeepers have kept the disease at bay with regular preventive applications of the antibiotic oxytetracycline, a compound that closely resembles tetracycline, which is commonly used in humans. Oxytetracycline has been in use among beekeepers since the 1950s, and many genes that confer resistance to oxytetracycline also confer resistance to tetracycline.

Using sensitive molecular techniques, Moran and her colleagues screened honeybees from several locations in the United States and from Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and New Zealand as well as several wild bumblebees from the Czech Republic, for the presence and abundance of tetracycline resistance genes. They found that U.S. honeybees have greater numbers and a more diverse set of tetracycline resistance genes than honeybees from the other countries.

Moran says it is reasonable to expect to see widespread resistance among bees, considering the decades-long use of oxytetracycline in honeybee hives. "It seems likely this reflects a history of using oxytetracycline since the 1950s. It's not terribly surprising. It parallels findings in other domestic animals, like chickens and pigs," says Moran.

Moran notes that beekeepers have long used oxytetracycline to control the bacterium that causes foulbrood, but the pathogen eventually acquired resistance to tetracycline itself. Of the foulbrood pathogens Melissococcus pluton and Paenibacillus larvae, Moran says, "They carry tetL, which is one of the eight resistance genes we found. It's possible that the gene was transferred either from the gut bacteria to the pathogen or from the pathogen to the gut bacteria."

Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and New Zealand do not allow beekeepers to use oxytetracycline in hives, so it is perhaps predictable that honeybees and wild bumblebees from these countries harbored only two or three different resistance genes and only in very low copy numbers, suggesting that the bacteria did not require the genes very frequently.

The authors of the study point out that by encouraging resistance and altering the bacteria that live in honeybee guts, decades of antibiotic applications may have actually been detrimental to honeybee wellbeing. Studies have suggested that the bacterial residents of the honeybee gut play beneficial roles in neutralizing toxins in the bees' diet, nutrition, and in defending the bee against pathogens. By disrupting the honeybee microbiota and reducing its diversity, long-term antibiotic use could weaken honeybee resistance to other diseases. Hence, the treatment that was meant to prevent disease and strengthen the hive may actually weaken its ability to fight off other pathogens.

Moran says while the study is interesting from the perspective of honeybee health and could have implications for how honeybee diseases are managed, the presence of resistance genes in the honeybee gut doesn't pose a direct risk to humans. These gut bacteria, says Moran, "don't actually live in the honey, they live in the bee. We've never actually detected them in the honey. When people are eating honey, they're not eating these bacteria."

mBio® is an open access online journal published by the American Society for Microbiology to make microbiology research broadly accessible. The focus of the journal is on rapid publication of cutting-edge research spanning the entire spectrum of microbiology and related fields. It can be found online at http://mBio.asm.org.

The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM's mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asmusa.org
http://mBio.asm.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH

nachricht Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>