Vairimorpha (Nosema) ceranae can promote Serratia development in honeybee gut: an underrated threat for bees?


Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2024 May 13;14:1323157. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2024.1323157. eCollection 2024.


The genus Serratia harbors opportunistic pathogenic species, among which Serratia marcescens is pathogenic for honeybees although little studied. Recently, virulent strains of S. marcescens colonizing the Varroa destructor mite’s mouth were found vectored into the honeybee body, leading to septicemia and death. Serratia also occurs as an opportunistic pathogen in the honeybee’s gut with a low absolute abundance. The Serratia population seems controlled by the host immune system, but its presence may represent a hidden threat, ready to arise when honeybees are weakened by biotic and abiotic stressors. To shed light on the Serratia pathogen, this research aims at studying Serratia’s development dynamics in the honeybee body and its interactions with the co-occurring fungal pathogen Vairimorpha ceranae. Firstly, the degree of pathogenicity and the ability to permeate the gut epithelial barrier of three Serratia strains, isolated from honeybees and belonging to different species (S. marcescens, Serratia liquefaciens, and Serratia nematodiphila), were assessed by artificial inoculation of newborn honeybees with different Serratia doses (104, 106, and 108 cells/mL). The absolute abundance of Serratia in the gut and in the hemocoel was assessed in qPCR with primers targeting the luxS gene. Moreover, the absolute abundance of Serratia was assessed in the gut of honeybees infected with V. ceranae at different development stages and supplied with beneficial microorganisms and fumagillin. Our results showed that all tested Serratia strains could pass through the gut epithelial barrier and proliferate in the hemocoel, with S. marcescens being the most pathogenic. Moreover, under cage conditions, Serratia better proliferates when a V. ceranae infection is co-occurring, with a positive and significant correlation. Finally, fumagillin and some of the tested beneficial microorganisms could control both Serratia and Vairimorpha development. Our findings suggest a correlation between the two pathogens under laboratory conditions, a co-occurring infection that should be taken into consideration by researches when testing antimicrobial compounds active against V. ceranae, and the related honeybees survival rate. Moreover, our findings suggest a positive control of Serratia by the environmental microorganism Apilactobacillus kunkeei in a in vivo model, confirming the potential of this specie as beneficial bacteria for honeybees.

PMID:38808063 | PMC:PMC11131372 | DOI:10.3389/fcimb.2024.1323157