Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin (USA) for the first time in history helped bees cope with a deadly disease by genetically editing their biome. This is an important nuance - it was not the insects themselves that underwent correction, but the bacteria that live in their body. With their help, it was possible to defeat one of the key problems of our time: the syndrome of destruction of bee colonies.
It is believed that the colony collapse syndrome is caused by two factors - the parasitic mites varroa and the wing deformity virus. In the first case, tiny, but very active mites settle on bees and literally eat up their fat reserves, weakening the insect. In the second case, the damaged wings can no longer keep the bee in the air, and the flightless honey collector is just a burden for the hive. And the more such diseased bees, the lower the chances of survival of the whole swarm.
Scientists studying the biomes of bees have decided to turn the insect-friendly bacteria Snodgrassella alvi into a weapon to combat the problem. By modifying its genome, two new strains were created. The first produced an immune response using RNA interference, suppressing the wing deformity virus. The second one destroyed the immune system of the ticks, provoking their death.
In the course of the experiments, the use of the first strain increased the chances of recovery in bees infected with the virus by 36.5%. In a test colony with mites, the introduction of the killer bacteria reduced the parasite population by 70%. Both studies are considered successful and scientists are now busy improving the genome of bacteria to turn them into an even more effective weapon against the global problem leading to the extinction of pollinating bees.