RNAi to save the bees?

bee_graphicSo the other day on a political board, actually, I heard about a treatment that may be helping to fight Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in bees.  It had originally been posted by Treehugger.  So the blogs have been abuzz with the news.  It seems there is an Israeli company called Beeologics that has developed a product called Remembee which can knock down the IAPV (Israeli acute paralysis virus) that is purported to be one of the contributors to CCD.

The technique involves RNAi, RNA interference.  Now, this is the same technology that many environmentalists decry wildly in their Hawaiian papayas.  It was the same biotechnology that was awared the Nobel Prize a few years back.  If you aren’t familiar with it there’s a reasonable intro diagram on the Nobel Prize site that covers it.  Slide 3 and 4 in that graphic are helpful.

There’s a fairly goofy YouTube interview about the company and their efforts:

But that wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to read a paper about this.  And PubMed to the rescue, I found a paper that appears to describe what they are doing.

According the the paper they pulled out some sequences for the IAPV and for honeybees.  They also did a GFP control for a sequence unrelated to bees or IAPV.  They are required by the EPA to demonstrate that the sequences they will use to interfere with the RNA of the virus didn’t match the bee genome to elimate off-target effects.  They did this with BLAST.

They inoculate control and experimental colonies with virus.  They generated dsRNA that they fed to bees.  The bees who get the IAPV infection + dsRNA IAPV have mortality curves that are slightly lower but parallel to the untreated bees.  Those that got IAPV + GFP or IAPV only showed much steeper population declines.  Seemed pretty straightforward: feeding the dsRNA to bees was protective.

They acknowledge that IAPV may not be the only component of CCD, but that even improving the health of bee colony may help them defeat other stresses too.

I haven’t found any subsequent papers on the field trials yet, that would be great to see.  But it looks like they are definitely in the field with this.  And I’m delighted to see the environmentalists appreciate the use of biotechnology.  Gives me a warm, buzzy feeling :)

Maori, E., Paldi, N., Shafir, S., Kalev, H., Tsur, E., Glick, E., & Sela, I. (2009). IAPV, a bee-affecting virus associated with Colony Collapse Disorder can be silenced by dsRNA ingestion Insect Molecular Biology, 18 (1), 55-60 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2583.2009.00847.x