International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI2018), August 5-10, 2018 in Guarujá, Brazil.

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Beeaware of disease Down Under: developing honey bee (Apis mellifera) disease diagnostics in Australia

Author(s):
Jessica Michelle Moran, Jessica Michelle Moran , Julia Grassl , Joanna Melonek , Ian Small
Institution(s):
Honey Bee Health Research Group, CRC for Honey Bee Products, ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, School of Molecular Science, University of Western Australia; Honey Bee Health Research Group, CRC for Honey Bee Products, ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, School of Molecular Science, University of Western Australia ; Honey Bee Health Research Group, CRC for Honey Bee Products, ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, School of Molecular Science, University of Western Australia ; ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, School of Molecular Science, University of Western Australia ; ARC CoE in Plant Energy Biology, School of Molecular Science, University of Western Australia
Australia is fortunate to have one of the healthiest honey bee (Apis mellifera) populations in the world, with relatively few diseases and parasites due to Australia’s isolation and strict biosecurity laws. However, beekeepers still manage a range of established pests and diseases, and the introduction and spread of disease into apiaries, across state borders, and into Australia are a daily threat. Quick diagnoses are necessary when a beekeeper is faced with the decision whether to keep or destroy a beehive; hives are expensive to replace, however delayed management can result in disease spreading to other hives and even to neighbouring apiaries. While molecular-based diagnostics are a widely employed tool overseas, Australia has been slow to adopt such techniques and its unique strains of viruses often prevent the use of molecular markers developed abroad. As a result, current diagnostics for honey bee disease in Australia are poor, unreliable and slow to provide disease confirmation. This is problematic for the beekeeping industry as early detection and correct identification of the infection agent are critical for correct management. To rectify this, we are using microscopy, PCR, and Next-Gen DNA sequencing to develop a diagnostic test for honey bee diseases currently present in Australia, and for exotic pathogens in order to detect incursions. This cost effective and timely molecular analysis of pathogens will eventually be disseminated to contract laboratories, allowing a 24 to 48-hour diagnostic turnaround for beekeepers. This will be a valuable tool for the Australian beekeeping industry, allowing beekeepers to manage and respond to disease more effectively and provide a tool for screening imported goods, including bee semen to be used in artificial insemination, for disease. 
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