Microbial Ecology

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 369–374 | Cite as

Distribution of Melissococcus plutonius in Honeybee Colonies with and without Symptoms of European Foulbrood

  • Eva Forsgren
  • Anna Cassel Lundhagen
  • Anton Imdorf
  • Ingemar Fries


A sensitive hemi-nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used for detection of Melissococcus plutonius, the causative agent of European foulbrood (EFB). Sampling was made in Switzerland, where EFB is a widespread disease and incidences have increased in recent years. Larvae from brood samples with and without clinical signs of disease (n = 92) and honey (n = 92) from the same colonies were investigated. Individual larvae (n = 60) and pupae (n = 30) from diseased brood in single colonies were also investigated to study the distribution of the bacterium within the brood between larvae. M. plutonius was detected in larvae in all apiaries where symptoms of EFB could be seen, but not in all colonies judged as cases of EFB in the field, when healthy-looking larvae from such colonies were tested. The occurrence of the bacterium within the brood was not limited to larvae with symptoms only, but was mainly found in diseased larvae. The bacterium was also found in pupae. Healthy-looking larvae—even from heavily diseased combs—failed, in a number of cases, to amplify product in the PCR. M. plutonius could only be detected in 35% of the brood nest honey from clinically diseased colonies.


Polymerase Chain Reaction Honey Sample Honeybee Coloni Individual Larva Polymerase Chain Reaction Inhibitor 
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We thank the Swedish Board of Agriculture, which has contributed partially to PCR analysis within the program for bee disease diagnostics in Sweden. We also thank Jean-Daniel Charrière and Rolf Kuhn for their help in collecting the field samples, and Kristoffer Forsgren for excellent technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva Forsgren
    • 1
  • Anna Cassel Lundhagen
    • 1
  • Anton Imdorf
    • 2
  • Ingemar Fries
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Swiss Bee Research CentreAgroscope Liebefeld-PosieuxBernSwitzerland

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