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Honeybee vaccine receives conditional license in move expected to “impact food production on a global scale”

January 8, 2023
Food & Drink

Dalan Animal Health, a biotech company pioneering insect health, has been granted a conditional license for vaccination of honeybees against American Foulbrood disease caused by Paenibacillus larvae. The vaccine is non-GMO and can be used in organic agriculture.

The conditional license has been issued by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for two years.

Honeybees are a critical component of agriculture and crucial for the pollination of global crops. One-third of the global food supply relies on pollination, and healthy commercial hives are essential to secure high crop yields.

However, honeybees are plagued by American Foulbrood, with previously no safe and sustainable solution for disease prevention.

Clinical cases of American Foulbrood are notifiable in the US and Canada, and the only treatment method relies on the incineration of bees and infected hives and equipment.

Prevention of infection in hives
According to Trevor Tauzer, owner of Tauzer Apiaries and board member of the California State Beekeepers Association, this is “an exciting step forward for beekeepers, as we rely on antibiotic treatment that has limited effectiveness and requires lots of time and energy to apply to our hives.”

“If we can prevent an infection in our hives, we can avoid costly treatments and focus our energy on other important elements of keeping our bees healthy,” he explains.

“We are committed to providing solutions to protect our pollinators and promote sustainable agriculture,” details Dr. Annette Kleiser, CEO of Dalan Animal Health.

Global population growth and changing climates will increase the importance of honeybee pollination to secure the food supply, she continues. “Our vaccine is a breakthrough in protecting honeybees. We are ready to change how we care for insects, impacting food production on a global scale.”

The vaccine
The bacterin was developed by Dalan Animal Health and is manufactured by Diamond Animal Health, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Heska.

Dalan will distribute the vaccine on a limited basis to commercial beekeepers and anticipates having the vaccine available in the US in 2023.

The vaccine, which contains killed whole-cell Paenibacillus larvae bacteria, is administered by mixing it into queen feed consumed by worker bees.

The vaccine is incorporated into the royal jelly by the worker bees, who then feed it to the queen. She ingests it, and fragments of the vaccine are deposited in her ovaries. Having been exposed to the vaccine, the developing larvae have immunity as they hatch.

Pivotal efficacy studies have indicated that oral vaccination of honeybees may reduce larval death associated with American Foulbrood infections caused by Paenibacillus larvae.

Industry challenges
The global honey industry faces major sustainability challenges because of its negative impact on bee diversity.

Previously, research has been flagged that helps solve the problem of honeybee pollinators and their offspring dying while they migrate to the US West Coast during the almond blossoming season.

And in Europe, honey producers called for an emergency action plan to deal with a loss of business to lower-priced imports in light of poor annual production yields and presently “distressing” market conditions.

Meanwhile, bee-less honey is making a buzz in developments, with MeliBio, a California-based start-up and Fooditive scaling production amid rising pressures around animal welfare.

Edited by Elizabeth Green


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