Vertical transmission of American foulbrood (Paenibacillus larvae) in honey bees (Apis mellifera).Vet Microbiol. 2006 May 31; 114(3-4):269-74.VM
The mode of transmission between hosts (horizontal versus vertical) of disease agents is important for determination of the evolution of virulence in pathogens. For disease management, it is imperative that the epidemiology of the disease is understood and pathogen transmission rates between hosts is a key factor for this understanding. Surprisingly little is known about transmission rates in honey bee pathology. We have studied the rate of vertical transmission of Paenibacillus larvae, the causative agent of American foulbrood (AFB) in honey bee colonies, as colonies reproduce by colony fission (swarming), by culturing for the spores from repetitive samples of adult bees. The results demonstrate vertical pathogen transmission to daughter swarms. The spore density declines over time in both mother colonies and daughter swarms if mother colonies do not exhibit clinical disease symptoms. Occasional positive samples more than a year post swarming, also in daughter swarms, indicate production of infectious spores from diseased larvae, without clinical disease observable by beekeepers, and/or maintenance of infective spores in the hive environment, allowing both horizontal and vertical transmission to be maintained. The results suggest that the virulence of AFB, being lethal at colony level in contrast to other bee diseases shaped by evolution, could be dependent on apicultural practices and that the pathogen probably would be maintained without causing frequent colony mortality in a natural system.