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Open AccessArticle

Foodborne Transmission of Deformed Wing Virus to Ants (Myrmica rubra)

Institute of Bee Health, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, 3097 Bern, Switzerland
Department of Entomology, Agricultural Research Organization, the Volcani Center, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel
Swiss Bee Research Centre, Agroscope, 3097 Bern, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Insects 2019, 10(11), 394;
Received: 30 August 2019 / Revised: 28 October 2019 / Accepted: 5 November 2019 / Published: 7 November 2019
Virus host shifts occur frequently, but the whole range of host species and the actual transmission pathways are often poorly understood. Deformed wing virus (DWV), an RNA virus described from honeybees (Apis mellifera), has been shown to have a broad host range. Since ants are often scavenging on dead honeybees, foodborne transmission of these viruses may occur. However, the role of the ant Myrmica rubra as an alternative host is not known and foodborne transmission to ants has not been experimentally addressed yet. Here, we show with a 16-week feeding experiment that foodborne transmission enables DWV type-A and -B to infect M. rubra and that these ants may serve as a virus reservoir. However, the titers of both plus- and minus-sense viral RNA strands decreased over time. Since the ants were fed with highly virus-saturated honeybee pupae, this probably resulted in initial viral peaks, then approaching lower equilibrium titers in infected individuals later. Since DWV infections were also found in untreated field-collected M. rubra colonies, our results support the wide host range of DWV and further suggest foodborne transmission as a so far underestimated spread mechanism. View Full-Text
Keywords: Apis mellifera; deformed wing virus; foodborne transmission; invasive species; Myrmica rubra Apis mellifera; deformed wing virus; foodborne transmission; invasive species; Myrmica rubra
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Schläppi, D.; Lattrell, P.; Yañez, O.; Chejanovsky, N.; Neumann, P. Foodborne Transmission of Deformed Wing Virus to Ants (Myrmica rubra). Insects 2019, 10, 394.

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