Next-generation sequence data demonstrate several pathogenic bee viruses in Middle East and African

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Haddad, N., Horth, L., Al-Shagour, B., Adjlane, N., & Loucif-Ayad, W. (2018). Next-generation sequence data demonstrate several pathogenic bee viruses in Middle East and African honey bee subspecies (Apis mellifera syriaca, Apis mellifera intermissa) as well as their cohabiting pathogenic mites (Varroa destructor). Virus genes, 1-12.

RNA viruses are associated with honey bee (Apis mellifera) colony losses in many parts of the world. Their consequencesmay be exacerbated when the ectoparasite mite Varroa destructor is present in hives.

While evidence of pathogenic, viral induced disease is abundant in western honey bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) from many parts of the world, less information exists regarding the pathogen load of Apis mellifera syriaca and Apis mellifera intermissa, honey bees from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that play substantial roles in regional beekeeping. Here, we used next-generation sequencing to evaluate the viral populations of these subspecies and their associated mites.

We found that both A. m. syriaca and A. m. intermissa, as well as the Varroa mites infecting their colonies, bear a suite of RNA viruses including major pathogenic viruses like Deformed wing virus, Acute bee paralysis virus, Black queen cell virus and Sacbrood virus, and less common viruses (e.g., bee Macula-like virus and Apis mellifera filamentous virus). The two native honey bee MENA subspecies have acquired different but overlapping suites of pathogens, which also differ, but overlap, with the suites detected in the mites.

The presence of plant viruses suggests that they were acquired from foraging for pollen and nectar. Phylogenetic analysis of the above common pathogenic RNA viruses showed unexpected genetic relationships with other known strains, indicative of import to MENA from outside of the region. Our findings indicate that it is important to carefully consider the impact of the movement of queens and mobile colonies, and the effects such movement have, on the transmission of disease.

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