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Crop Biotech Update

Geneticist Removes Bee Genomes from Colonies to Study Pathogens

May 20, 2011

The honeybee genome was sequenced in 2006, and after which scientists are moving to find ways to fight diseases of one of the most important insects in the world. Scott Corman, geneticist at the Bee Research Laboratory of USDA, subtracts the honeybee genome from every other stray bit of genetic residue in healthy and diseased colonies. The remaining genetic material thus provides clues about other organisms in the bee's world, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

"Right now we're in the discovery phase, where we're trying to identify what's present," says Cornman. "Then we can start looking at the interactions of pathogens and see if they're more virulent than any by themselves."

Through Cornman's study, data were gathered and showed that hives affected by a colony collapse disorder (CCD), which causes insects to die in large quantities, contain higher levels of microscopic gut fungi (Nosema). He also found several viruses that are prevalent but have not been reported prior to his study.

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