ABAtE : active bacteriophages for AFB eradication : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Genetics at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

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The European honey bee (Apis mellifera) is one of the most important livestock animals in New Zealand. Their value comes from a combination of pollination services and the production of honey for export, notably mānuka honey. American Foulbrood (AFB) is a disease of honey bee larvae and pupae and is caused by the bacterial pathogen, Paenibacillus larvae. AFB is the most serious disease that infects honey bees and is present in almost all countries where honey bees are found. AFB has been present in New Zealand since 1877 and spread to all parts of the country within 10 years. Unlike other countries, the use of antibiotics in hives infected with P. larvae is prohibited under New Zealand law and infected hives must be destroyed immediately. Bacteriophages (phages) are a well-studied alternative to antibiotics. Phages are simple viruses that kill specific bacteria and are highly abundant in the environment with an estimated 1031 globally. Phages have been shown to work effectively as a prophylactic to infection from certain diseases. With the growing antimicrobial resistance crisis, phages are becoming a well-studied and promising alternative to antibiotics. The aim of this research was to investigate the use of phages as a preventative measure against AFB. Previous work undertaken in other laboratories around the world has shown that phages can be isolated from healthy hives and nearby soil and that AFB pathogens are susceptible to destruction by these phages. In this work, we collected soil samples using citizen led science from hives throughout New Zealand. From soil samples provided we isolated 26 novel phages that are destructive to P. larvae. Selected phages were combined into a cocktail and tested against vegetative forms of P. larvae in in-lab testing. All phages were also sequenced and annotated and compared to other P. larvae phages that have been isolated around the world. This project: ABAtE (Active Bacteriophages for AFB Elimination), provides the groundwork study for an innovative approach to naturally protecting NZ beehives against AFB.
Honeybee, Diseases, American foulbrood, Prevention, Bacteriophages, New Zealand