- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Pathogen Characteristics
- Vectors and Intermediate Hosts
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Distribution Maps
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IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Melissococcus plutonius (Trüper and de' Clari, 1998)
Other Scientific Names
- Melissococcus pluton
- Streptococcus pluton White
- MELKPL (Melissococcus pluton)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Melissococcus plutonius is the aetiological agent of European foul brood, an important disease of honey bees which is found on all continents where Apis mellifera is kept; it also affects A. cerana. European foul brood is on the list of diseases notifiable to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the disease and pathogen are included in the Invasive Species Compendium for that reason.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Bacteria
- Phylum: Firmicutes
- Class: Bacilli
- Order: Lactobacillales
- Family: Enterococcaceae
- Genus: Melissococcus
- Species: Melissococcus plutonius
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Studies carried out by Bailey and Collins, published in the early 1980s, concentrated on the taxonomy and reclassification of the causal agent of European foul brood disease. The authors reported that Streptococcus pluton strains isolated from European-foul-brood-infected honeybee larvae in broadly separate parts of the world were all related serologically, and thus represented a fairly homogenous taxon (Bailey and Collins, 1982b). The results of tests indicated that the strains should constitute the nucleus of a new genus, Melissococcus.
In the same volume of the Journal of Applied Bacteriology, Bailey and Collins (1982a) announced the reclassification of Streptococcus pluton in the new genus, proposing Melissococcus pluton (White) nom. rev.: comb. nov. as the one species within that genus.
Trüper and Clari (1998) corrected the name to Melissococcus plutonius to meet the requirements of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
DistributionTop of page
European foul brood disease is distributed worldwide (Forsgren et al., 2013) on all continents where Apis mellifera is kept; it also affects A. cerana (FAO, 2006). The Distribution table contains records only for those countries where records are readily available, so it should not be taken as an exhaustive list of where the disease is present.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
M. plutonius is already present in most regions where honey bees are kept, but spread on a more local level is still a concern.
Infection can be spread by natural movement of bees, but the main cause of spread is the movement of bees and equipment by beekeepers (FERA, 2013).
Many larvae infected by the bacterium are detected by nurse bees and removed from the cells; however, some infected larvae do survive and successfully pupate and emerge as adults. These surviving larvae exacerbate disease propagation by expelling faeces infected with the bacteria (OIE, 2013a).
In a study of spatial distribution of M. plutonius in adult honey bees, Belloy et al. (2007) stated that in over 90% of colonies without European foul brood symptoms located in apiaries with symptoms, the bees were carriers of the bacterium. Thirty percent of colonies in apiaries without European foul brood symptoms, but near apiaries with symptoms, contained bees carrying M. plutonius. An increase in the proportion of adult bees carrying M. plutonius in colonies without symptoms was observed when there was a decrease in distance to apiaries with clinical European foul brood symptoms. Obviously pathways such as this have to be considered when control methods are put into practice.
The movement of bees, equipment and supplies worldwide has assisted in spreading bee diseases to all areas where bees are raised (OIE, undated).
Pathogen CharacteristicsTop of page
Melissococcus plutonius is the cause of European foul brood. It occurs singly, in longitudinal chains or in clusters. It is morphologically similar to the secondary invader, Enterococcus faecalis (OIE, 2013a).
Paenibacillus alvei, Bacterium eurydice and Enterococcus faecalis are often associated with EFB, but as secondary invaders, not the cause of the disease. P. alvei has vegetative rods 2-7 x 0.8-1.2 um, with flagella. It sporulates with spores lying adjacently and both rods and spores are larger than those of P. larvae (the causal agent of American foul brood) (OIE, 2013a). B. eurydice is a slender and square-ended rod in vivo, but can form chains of cocci in vitro in certain media. E. faecalis closely resembles M. plutonius morphologically and grows well in vitro under the conditions suitable for M. plutonius, but it may be readily differentiated by its ability to grow aerobically (OIE, 2013a).
Vectors and Intermediate HostsTop of page
Economic ImpactTop of page
Honey bees are important to agriculture and horticulture as pollinators, and European foul brood is a very serious and infectious disease (FERA, 2013). The value of pollination is estimated to exceed the value of products from beehives many-fold (Delaplane and Mayer, 2000). Any disease that causes a significant decrease in honeybee population is likely to have an adverse effect on the beekeeping industry and agricultural production.
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Bee decline will have a significantly negative affect on pollination in habitats that rely on these insects for development. The value of pollination is estimated to exceed the value of products from beehives many-fold (Delaplane and Mayer, 2000).
Impact on Biodiversity
A decline in native bees, such as A. mellifera, due to the spread of European foul brood, will have a negative effect on bee biodiversity (Cuthbertson and Brown, 2009).
Social ImpactTop of page
The effect of European foul brood outbreaks on honeybee health will also have a significant impact on honey products and thus the livelihood of beekeepers.
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Impact outcomes
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Host damage
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts livelihoods
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Damages animal/plant products
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Difficult to identify/detect in the field
ReferencesTop of page
Al'bert RS; Birman BYa; Beznos TV; Lysak VV; Baeva IA, 2002. Investigations into probiotic preparations used in prevention of purulent diseases and mycoses in bees. Veterinarnaya Nauka - Proizvodstvu, No.36:219-226.
Belloy L; Imdorf A; Fries I; Forsgren E; Berthoud H; Kuhn R; Charrière JD, 2007. Spatial distribution of Melissococcus plutonius in adult honey bees collected from apiaries and colonies with and without symptoms of European foulbrood. Apidologie, 38(2):136-140. http://www.edpsciences.org/journal/index.cfm?edpsname=apido
Bonta V; Marghitas LA; Dezmirean D; Moise A; Bobis O; Maghear O, 2007. Optimization of HPLC method for quantifying tetracycline residue in honey. Bulletin of University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca. Animal Science and Biotechnologies, 63/64:186-190. http://www.usamvcluj.ro
Budge GE; Barrett B; Jones B; Pietravalle S; Marris G; Chantawannakul P; Thwaites R; Hall J; Cuthbertson AGS; Brown MA, 2010. The occurrence of Melissococcus plutonius in healthy colonies of Apis mellifera and the efficacy of European foulbrood control measures. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 105(2):164-170. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WJV-50BJNX2-1&_user=10&_coverDate=10%2F31%2F2010&_rdoc=9&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_origin=browse&_zone=rslt_list_item&_srch=doc-info(%23toc%236888%232010%23998949997%232316759%23FLA%23display%23Volume)&_cdi=6888&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=18&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=91d936109212dd95909050ba15c116c6&searchtype=a
Calderón RA; Sánchez LA, 2011. Diagnosis of bee diseases in Africanized honey bees in Costa Rica: prevalence and distribution from September to November 2007. (Diagnóstico de enfermedades en colmenas de abejas africanizadas en Costa Rica: prevalencia y distribución de Setiembre a Noviembre del 2007.) Agronomía Costarricense, 35(2):49-60. http://www.mag.go.cr/rev_agr/index.html
Cuthbertson AGS; Brown MA, 2006. Vital Pollinators: honey bees in apple orchards. The Biologist, 53:78-81.
Cuthbertson AGS; Brown MA, 2009. Issues affecting British honey bee biodiversity and the need for conservation of this important ecological component. International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 6(4):695-699. http://www.ceers.org/ijest
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), 2006. Honey bee diseases and pests: a practical guide. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, viii + 33 pp. [FAO agricultural and food engineering technical report 4.]
FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency), 2013. Foulbrood disease of honey bees and other common brood disorders. Sand Hutton, UK: Food and Environment Research Agency, 37 pp. https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/downloadDocument.cfm?id=7
Forsgren E; Budge GE; Charrière JD; Hornitzky MAZ, 2013. Standard methods for European foulbrood research. Journal of Apicultural Research, 52(1):52.1.12. http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/The-COLOSS-BEEBOOK-European-foulbrood
Glinski Z, 1972. Properties and antigenic structure of Streptococcus pluton. I. Morphological and cultural characteristics. (Badania nad wlasciwosciami i budowa antygenowa Streptococcus pluton. I. Wlasciwosci morfologiczne i hodowlane.) Medycyna Weterynaryjna, 28(7):399-405.
Gurgulova K; Zhelyazkova I; Malinova K; Takova S, 2008. Investigation of Ecophil-P and Green TM biological activity against the causative agents of infectious brood diseases. In: Sbornik dokladi ot nauchnata konferentsiya: Traditsii i s'vremenhost v'v veterinarnata meditsina. Sofia, Bulgaria: Lesotekhnicheski Universitet, 306-316.
Invernizzi C; Antúnez K; Campa JP; Harriet J; Mendoza Y; Santos E; Zunino P, 2011. Health status of honey bees in Uruguay. (Situación sanitaria de las abejas melíferas en Uruguay.) Veterinaria (Montevideo), 47(181):15-27. http://www.smvu.com.uy
Kanbar G; Engels W; Nicholson GJ; Hertle R; Winkelmann G, 2004. Tyramine functions as a toxin in honey bee larvae during Varroa-transmitted infection by Melissococcus pluton. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 234(1):149-154.
Kardakov VP, 1974. Morphological, cultural and biochemical properties of micro-organisms in collective and state-farm apiaries in Odessa province. Zaraznye i nezaraznye zabolevaniya sel'skokhozyaistvennykh zhivotnykh na yuge Ukrainy, editor I. A. Izmailov and 5 others. Odessa, Ukrainian SSR: Odesskii Sel'skokhozyaistvennyi Institut., 28-33.
Machado JO; Lemos MVF, 1975. Isolation of, and control measures for, Streptococcus pluton, in apiaries in Igarapava, Jardinopolis and Ribeirao Preto (SP). (Streptococcus pluton, seu isolamento e combate nos apiarios de Igarapava, Jardinopolis e Ribeirao Preto - Estado de Sao Paulo.) In: Anais do terceiro Congresso Brasileiro de Apicultura, 1974. Piracicaba, SP., Brazil 199-203.
OIE (Office International des Epizooties), undated. Diseases of bees. Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties, 6 pp. http://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Media_Center/docs/pdf/Disease_cards/BEES-EN.pdf
OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), 2013. Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals. Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health. http://www.oie.int/en/international-standard-setting/terrestrial-manual/access-online/
OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), 2013. Terrestrial Animal Health Code, edition 22. Paris, France: Office International des Epizooties. http://www.oie.int/international-standard-setting/terrestrial-code/access-online/
OIE, 2009. World Animal Health Information Database - Version: 1.4. World Animal Health Information Database. Paris, France: World Organisation for Animal Health. http://www.oie.int
Okumura K; Arai R; Okura M; Kirikae T; Takamatsu D; Osaki M; Miyoshi-Akiyama T, 2012. Complete genome sequence of Melissococcus plutonius DAT561, a strain that shows an unusual growth profile and is representative of an endemic cluster in Japan. Journal of Bacteriology, 194(11):3014. http://jb.asm.org/content/194/11/3014.full
Rana BS; Rana R; Gulshan Kumar; Sharma HK; Gupta JK; Kiran Dayal, 2004. 'Cerana' European foulbrood causing havoc to the native bee, Apis cerana F., in Himachal Pradesh. Pest Management and Economic Zoology, 12(1):109-111.
Rana BS; Rao KM; Chakravarty SK; Sapna Katna, 2012. Characterization of Melissococcus plutonius causing European foulbrood disease in Apis cerana F. Journal of Apicultural Research, 51(4):306-311. http://www.ibra.org.uk
Tomkies V; Flint J; Johnson G; Waite R; Wilkins S; Danks C; Watkins M; Cuthbertson AGS; Carpana E; Marris G; Budge G; Brown MA, 2009. Development and validation of a novel field test kit for European foulbrood. Apidologie, 40(1):63-72. http://www.edpsciences.org/journal/index.cfm?edpsname=apido
Trüper HG; Clari L de', 1998. Taxonomic note: erratum and correction of further specific epithets formed as substantives (nouns) 'in apposition'. International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology, 48:615.
OrganizationsTop of page
World: IBRA, International Bee Research Association, Unit 6, Centre Court, Main Avenue, Treforest, RCT, CF37 5YR, UK, www.ibra.org.uk
World: OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), 12, rue de Prony, 75017 Paris, France, http://www.oie.int/
UK: British Beekeepers’ Association, National Beekeeping Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG, UK, www.britishbeekeepers.com
ContributorsTop of page
23/03/2012: Original text by:
Dr Claire Beverley, CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, OX10 8DE, UK.
Distribution MapsTop of page
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