PloS one 2016 Nov 911(11) e0166297 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0166297
The Western Honeybee is a key pollinator for natural as well as agricultural ecosystems. In the last decade massive honeybee colony losses have been observed worldwide, the result of a complex syndrome triggered by multiple stress factors, with the RNA virus Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and the mite Varroa destructor playing crucial roles. The mite supports replication of DWV to high titers, which exert an immunosuppressive action and correlate with the onset of the disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of 1,3-1,6 β-glucan, a natural innate immune system modulator, on honeybee response to low-titer natural and high-titer experimental DWV infection. As the effects exerted by ß-glucans can be remarkably different, depending on the target organism and the dose administered, two parallel experiments were performed, where 1,3-1,6 ß-glucan at a concentration of 0.5% and 2% respectively, was added to the diet of three cohorts of newly emerged honeybees, which were sampled from a Varroa-free apiary and harboured a low endogenous DWV viral titer. Each cohort was subjected to one of the following experimental treatments: no injection, injection of a high-copy number DWV suspension into the haemocel (experimental DWV infection) or injection of PBS into the haemocoel (physical injury). Control bees fed a ß-glucan-free diet were subjected to the same treatments. Viral load, survival rate, haemocyte populations and phenoloxidase activity of each experimental group were measured and compared. The results indicated that oral administration of 0.5% ß-glucan to naturally infected honeybees was associated with a significantly decrease of the number of infected bees and viral load they carried, and with a significant increase of the survival rate, suggesting that this natural immune modulator molecule might contribute to increase honeybee resistance to viral infection.