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High genetic variability of Nosema ceranae populations in Apis mellifera from East Asia compared to central Asia and the Americas

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Nosema ceranae is believed to have been originally a parasite of the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana, in East Asia that later infected the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, followed by a worldwide spread. To examine if that possibly affected the genetics of the parasite, A. mellifera samples infected with N. ceranae were collected from seven locations across the world to compare the genetic variation of the parasite within its putative invasive range (Iran, Ontario-Canada, Alberta-Canada, New York-United States of America, Mexico and Argentina) to its native range (Vietnam) using SNPs in the translation elongation factor-1 alpha sequence and three SSRs. Both type of markers detected the highest genetic variation in Vietnam. The SNPs revealed that the most common variant in Vietnam was the type found in all other locations with no variation detected in the invasive range. The SSRs, however, showed variation in populations in the invasive range with three groups: Iran with Alberta-Canada, Mexico with Argentina, and Ontario-Canada with New York-United States of America. These groupings may be related to the international movement of bees and beekeeping products. The genetic variation of N. ceranae supports the hypothesis that the most likely origin of N. ceranae was East Asia, and that the parasite subsequently spread throughout the world.

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We are grateful to Moez Valliani and Tom Hsiang for assisting with the bioinformatic analysis and Gholamhosein Tahmasbi, Hanh Pham, Gard Otis, Paul Kozak, Brian Lacey and Medhat Nasr for providing assistance in collecting honey bee specimens. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions to improve this ms.


This study was funded in part by a High Quality Personnel grant from the agreement between the University of Guelph and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs of Canada.

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Correspondence to Ernesto Guzman-Novoa.

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Supplementary Fig. 1 Nucleotide sequence alignment of the translation elongation factor 1-alpha of Nosema ceranae infected honey bees samples. Sequences were placed into six groups, each with identical sequences: IR_ON_AB_NY_AG_MX_VI 1-6_VI 12-16 containing all samples from Iran (IR), Ontario-Canada (ON), Alberta-Canada (AB), Argentina (AG), New York-United States (NY), Mexico (MX), and samples VI12 to VI16 from Vietnam, and one sample each from Vietnam VI7, VI8, VI9, VI10 and VI11. Each sample contained 5 bees. Asterisks indicate no variation while shading indicates variation. Sequences were aligned using ClustalW version 2.0. (DOCX 103 KB)

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Valizadeh, P., Guzman-Novoa, E. & Goodwin, P.H. High genetic variability of Nosema ceranae populations in Apis mellifera from East Asia compared to central Asia and the Americas. Biol Invasions 24, 3133–3145 (2022).

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