The U.S Dept of Agriculture has given conditional approval for the very first insect vaccine in U.S history.
Developed by Dalan Animal health in Georgia, U.S.A, the prophylactic vaccine provides immunity against American Foul Brood. Traditionally colonies infected with American Foulbrood are not left with a lot of options, and usually must be destroyed with fire. Scientists believe the vaccine may pave the way for controlling a range of honey bee and insect pests and viruses.
The vaccine contains quantities of dead versions of Paenibacillus larvae, the bacterium responsible for American foulbrood. It is incorporated into Royal jelly were it is then fed to the Queen. Once it is ingested, the vaccine is deposited in the queens’ ovaries and passed to her offspring from there.
It was long believed that insects lacked the antibody proteins needed for their immune systems to recognize and fight viruses and infections. However in 2015 the protein responsible for triggering immune response and passing it to offspring was identified. This discovery, by Dr Feiteke, lead to the finding that an entire population could be immunized through a single queen. Following this, the team focused upon developing a vaccine for American Foulbrood.
There is no regulatory precedent for such a vaccine, as bees are not a domesticated animal in the same sense as domesticated livestock. To gain the conditional approval, the company had to demonstrate proof of “safety, purity and certain degrees of efficacy”. It must also continue to collect data while the process of gaining full approval is underway. The path of conditional approval was opted for as it allows the company to accelerate approval for the vaccine so long as a high and unmet need in the market has been identified.
For scientists and beekeepers alike, this vaccine may be the first step in a new way of protecting honey bees.