American foulbrood is caused by the Gram-positive spore forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae. Larvae become infected by consuming the spores in food which then germinate in the mid-gut, invading the tissues and killing the larvae, usually after pupation.
The spores are resistant to heat and cold and to disinfectants and are viable for many years in honey, old combs or derelict hives. Once a colony is infected with AFB the disease will usually progress until the colony dies. AFB cannot be eradicated with antibiotics as they act as bacteriostats (i.e. agents that stop bacteria from reproducing without killing them), and these do not affect the spores either hich are the primary mode of transmission within the hive. Antibiotics are widely used outside Europe and there is strong evidence of the development of resistance to antibiotics in P. larvae, e.g. oxytetracycline in the USA (Murray 2009). AFB is a notifiable disease throughout Europe and the only method of control in Europe is destruction of infected colonies.
Robbing by adult bees of contaminated honey sources, including weakened, dying dead or infected colonies is an important mode of transmission between colonies. However, transmission from infected hives to healthy hives due to beekeeper practice is also a serious risk. By bringing in infected colonies or contaminated used material from other apiaries spore contamination may be transferred to the apiary.
Spores can easily be transferred between hives directly, if contaminated frames of honey or brood are moved between hives, or if other contaminated equipment is used. If left to run its course, all colonies
infected with AFB will eventually die from the disease. Diseases of honey bees and application of improper treatment methods cause bee deaths, thus the deterioration of ecological balance causing inefficiency of honey production and severe economical loss.
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