Researchers Identify Virus Possibly Responsible for Declining Honeybee Population Using 454 Sequencing Technology from Roche

Friday, September 7, 2007 General News
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BRANFORD, Conn., Sept. 6 454 Life Sciences, a Rochecompany, today announced that researchers at Columbia University, incollaboration with 454, have identified a virus implicated in the deaths of2.4 million honeybee colonies -- tens of billions of bees -- using thecompany's Genome Sequencer(TM) system.

The findings explain how foreign organisms living in and among the beeswere identified by reading sequences of DNA isolated from the bee colonies.The study, entitled "A metagenomic survey of microbes in honey bee colonycollapse disorder", appears online today, ahead of print, in the journalScience. Using 454 Sequencing technology, Dr. Ian Lipkin, Professor ofEpidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, andcolleagues sequenced DNA and RNA samples that were extracted from collapsingand healthy bee colonies in search of any pathogen responsible for thecollapse.

The research identified five major bacterial groups, four lineages offungi and seven types of viruses. While most of the foreign organisms werefound in both the collapsed and healthy bee colonies, one virus, Israeli Acuteparalysis Paralysis Virus (IAPV), was found only in the collapsed colonies. Asthe researchers reported today in Science: "We have not proven a causalrelationship between any infectious agent and CCD; nonetheless, the prevalenceof IAPV sequences in CCD operations, as well as the temporal and geographicoverlap of CCD and importation of IAPV infected bees, indicate that IAPV is asignificant marker for CCD."

"Unbiased 454 Sequencing technology enabled us to rapidly assemble acomprehensive inventory of microflora in Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) andnon-CCD populations, and provided the sequence information needed to identifycandidate pathogens," stated Dr. Lipkin. "We view this work as a model forinvestigating epidemics of unexplained infectious disease."

Bees play an integral role in the world food supply and are essential forthe pollination of more than 90 fruit and vegetable crops worldwide. Theeconomic value of these agricultural products is placed at more than $14.6billion in the United States alone. In CCD, honeybee colonies inexplicablylose all of their worker bees. CCD has resulted in a loss of 50% to 90% ofcolonies in beekeeping operations across the United States. The observationthat irradiated honeycombs from affected colonies could be repopulated withhealthy bees, while non-sterilized combs could not, suggested an infectiousbasis for CCD. Suspected pathogens were screened for association with CCD byexamination of samples collected from several sites over a period of threeyears.

"We are very pleased to see our technology applied to solve real-worldproblems. We are hopeful this latest research will help eliminate the threatof CCD to global agriculture" said Christopher McLeod, president of 454 LifeSciences. "The chief advantage of 454 Sequencing technology is how it quickly

enables researchers to identify the organisms present in complex environmentswithout any advance knowledge of the sample."

CCD was first reported in the fall of 2006 in the Unites States. Sincethen, CCD has been reported in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italyand Greece. A recent survey of 13 states by the Apiary Inspectors of Americashowed that over a quarter of U.S. beekeepers have lost, on average, half oftheir bee colonies between September 2006 and March 2007.

454 Life Sciences develops and commercializes novel instrumentation forhigh-throughput DNA sequencing. Specific applications include whole-genomesequencing, RNA analysis and ultra-deep sequencing of target genes. Thehallmarks of 454 Sequencing(TM) are its simple, unbiased sample preparationand massively parallel sequencing, which makes large-scale scientific projectsfeasible and more affordable. During the last months, the technology provedits suitability in a lo

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