A plant virus is threatening honey bees: The tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV) normally infects tomato, cucumber,and bean plants. However, TRSV has now expanded its host range to insects and has already been detected in honey bees.
The virus infiltrates the bee’s body
It is known that insects transmit the virus from plant to plant by transporting contaminated pollen. However, a group of scientists working with Ji Lian Li from Beijing has demonstrated that the virus not only passes through the digestive tract of honey bees but also infiltrates the rest of the bee’s body and replicates: The researchers found viral particles in the haemolymph, nerves, and wings. The scientists also describe the consequence of the infection: Their experiments showed a correlation between colony collapse disorder and an increased infection rate with TRSV in a bee colony.
TRSV is a so-called RNA virus: human pathogenic viruses like HIV and Influenza also belong to this group. They evolve rapidly and adapt well to new conditions. About five percent of known plant viruses are transmitted by pollen. Most of them are also RNA-based, making them potential host-jumping viruses.