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Deformed wing virus type A, a major honey bee pathogen, is vectored by the mite Varroa destructor in a non-propagative manner.

By Francisco Posada-Florez, Anna K. Childers, Matthew C. Heerman, Noble I. Egekwu, Steven C. Cook, Yanping Chen, Jay D Evans, Eugene V Ryabov

Posted 06 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/660985 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-47447-3)

Honey bees, the primary managed insect pollinator, suffer considerable losses due to Deformed wing virus (DWV), an RNA virus vectored by the mite Varroa destructor. Mite vectoring has resulted in the emergence of virulent DWV variants. The basis for such changes in DWV is poorly understood. Most importantly, it remains unclear whether replication of DWV occurs in the mite. In this study, we exposed Varroa mites to DWV type A via feeding on artificially infected honey bees. A significant, 357-fold increase in DWV load was observed in these mites after 2 days. However, after 8 additional days of passage on honey bee pupae with low viral loads, the DWV load dropped by 29-fold. This decrease significantly reduced the mites' ability to transmit DWV to honey bees. Notably, negative-strand DWV RNA, which could indicate viral replication, was detected only in mites collected from pupae with high DWV levels but not in the passaged mites. We also found that Varroa mites contain honey bee mRNAs, consistent with the acquisition of honey bee cells which would additionally contain DWV replication complexes with negative-strand DWV RNA. We propose that transmission of DWV type A by Varroa mites occurs in a non-propagative manner.

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