Natures wonders: symbiosis bacteria and bees (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Monday, October 05, 2015, 19:16 (1601 days ago) @ David Turell

the article points out all sorts of relationships like this:

"In the last few years, you've moved from studying aphids and endosymbionts to bees and their microbes. What inspired the change?
It's very difficult to perform experiments on endosymbionts because the organisms need them to survive. You can't remove the symbiont and see what happens.

"What drew you to bees?
Bees are social insects, which gives microbes the opportunity to be transferred from animal to animal. In this way, the bee microbiome is a lot like the human microbiome.

"How can the bee microbiome help us understand the human version?
Different bee colonies have different strains with different gene collections, just as people have their own unique collection of microbes.

"In human microbiome studies, the links between the microbiome and health are correlative. We rarely have causative data. In bees, we can do more direct experiments. We can do something to the colony and see if it thrives or fails. For example, we isolate pupae in the lab and inoculate the emerging adult bees with specific bacteria. It's a simpler system but still complex.

"What do you hope to learn about bee health?
Clean bees, those with no microbes, may be worse at dealing with environmental challenges, such as food shortages, stress and pathogens. There's some evidence that certain bacterial strains can protect honeybees against an RNA virus that is the species' most common and deadly pathogen. The virus is widespread in bees, and it kills some colonies but seems innocuous in others. Why? It probably has to do with the microbiome and how resilient the colony is.

"Will your work identify potential causes of colony collapse disorder?
It's only speculation at this point. But you can imagine that a naturally occurring bee colony has little exposure to other colonies. A microbe will survive only if its host colony survives. But commercial bees are raised closer together than in the wild, so there's more opportunity for microbes to spread among colonies. If you take a lot of colonies and put them a few feet apart, you could create conditions where there's greater advantage [from the microbe's perspective] to invading other colonies rather than relying on a single host. That could select for bacteria that are harmful to the colony — for example those that cause the bees to develop diarrhea and spread the microbe. Modeling studies based on human pathogens suggest that lots of social contact could create more-harmful microbes."

Comment: the human biome is now under intense study. We contain many more bacteria than the sum of our own cells.

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