Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 100, Issue 17, pp 7387–7395 | Cite as

Biology of Paenibacillus larvae, a deadly pathogen of honey bee larvae

  • Julia Ebeling
  • Henriette Knispel
  • Gillian Hertlein
  • Anne Fünfhaus
  • Elke Genersch


The gram-positive bacterium Paenibacillus larvae is the etiological agent of American Foulbrood of honey bees, a notifiable disease in many countries. Hence, P. larvae can be considered as an entomopathogen of considerable relevance in veterinary medicine. P. larvae is a highly specialized pathogen with only one established host, the honey bee larva. No other natural environment supporting germination and proliferation of P. larvae is known. Over the last decade, tremendous progress in the understanding of P. larvae and its interactions with honey bee larvae at a molecular level has been made. In this review, we will present the recent highlights and developments in P. larvae research and discuss the impact of some of the findings in a broader context to demonstrate what we can learn from studying “exotic” pathogens.


Paenibacillus larvae American foulbrood Pathobiology Bacterial pathogenesis Secondary metabolites Chitin-degrading enzymes Bacterial toxins S-layer proteins 


Compliance with ethical standards

Own work reported in this review was funded by the Ministries for Agriculture from Brandenburg and Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, and by the German Research Foundation (Graduate School 1121 and grants GE1365/1–1, GE1365/1–2).

Conflict of interest

All five authors (J. Ebeling, H. Knispel, G. Hertlein, A. Fünfhaus, and E. Genersch) declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal studies

This article is a review article and does not contain in itself any studies with human participants or vertebrate animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Molecular Microbiology and Bee DiseasesInstitute for Bee ResearchHohen NeuendorfGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Microbiology and EpizooticsFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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