PerspectiveMICROBIAL ENGINEERING

A microbiome silver bullet for honey bees

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Science  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6477, pp. 504-506
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba6135

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Summary

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera) brings tangible benefits to humans as an important pollinator and insights into social evolution as a model organism. Yet, despite close scientific scrutiny, it is under global threat from a range of stressors (1) that are unlikely to diminish with global change. Chief among these are pests and pathogens, remedies to which are either ineffective, short-term, expensive, or impractical. On page 573 of this issue, Leonard et al. (2) reveal a hidden microbiological key to fight these pests and pathogens: genetically modified honey bee gut bacteria tailored to induce host RNA interference (RNAi)–based defense (3) that is effective, long-term, potentially cheap, and easy to apply. This important approach may not only provide a solution to many of the honey bee's woes, it also offers a new functional genomic toolkit with which to dissect the molecular intricacies of honey bees and their societies.

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