The microsporidian parasite Nosema ceranae
is a highly prevalent, global honey bee pathogen. Apis mellifera
is considered to be a relatively recent host for this microsporidia, which raises questions as to how it affects its host’s physiology, behavior and longevity, both at the individual and colony level. As such, honey bees were inoculated with fresh purified spores of this pathogen, both individually (Group A) or collectively (Group B) and they were studied from 0 to 15 days post-emergence (p.e.) to evaluate the effect of bee age and the method of inoculation at 7 days post-infection. The level of infection was analyzed individually by qPCR by measuring the relative amount of the N. ceranae polar tubule protein 3
gene. The results show that the bee’s age and the method of infection directly influence parasite load, and thus, early disease development. Significant differences were found regarding bee age at the time of infection, whereby the youngest bees (new-born and 1 day p.e.) developed the highest parasite load, with this load decreasing dramatically in bees infected at 2 days p.e. before increasing again in bees infected at 3–4 days p.e. The parasite load in bees infected when older than 4 days p.e. diminished as they aged. When the age cohort data was pooled and grouped according to the method of infection, a significantly higher mean concentration and lower variation in N. ceranae
infection was evident in Group A, indicating greater variation in experimental infection when spores were administered collectively to bees through their food. In summary, these data indicate that both biological and experimental factors should be taken into consideration when comparing data published in the literature.
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