The interdisciplinary research team around Dr. Elke Genersch, Bee Research Institute Hohen Neuendorf and lecturer in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Freie Universität Berlin, and Professor Lothar H. Wieler and Dr. Marcel Nordhoff, both from the Institute for Microbiology and Epizootic Disease of the Department of Veterinary Medicine of Freie Universität, has discovered that the bacterial pathogen Paenibacillus larvae that causes American foulbrood lives in the midgut of the bee larvae, subsisting on the prey ingested by the larvae. Only after the larval gut is filled to the bursting point do the bacteria break through the gut wall into the surrounding tissue. Previously, it had been assumed that the bacteria had to pass through the gut mucosa as rapidly as possible, as they could only multiply in larval tissue. It has now been proven that they begin to multiply in the larval gut.
Every year beekeepers around the world suffer severe financial losses due to this notifiable disease. Currently, the only method of control is destruction of the infected bee colony. The new research results are a major breakthrough in honeybee pathology, presenting an opportunity for the development of an efficient form of therapy.