Combatting Nosema infections in honeybees with an Antifungal Porphyrin-based Intervention System (APIS)
Team UAlberta’s project aims to solve an impending threat to Alberta’s apiculture industry.
Awarded Best Food & Nutrition Project Undergraduate
Nominated Best Integrated Human Practice Undergraduate
Awarded Gold Medal
Honeybees are integral to modern-day life as they contribute economically through honey production and they help maintain biodiversity by pollinating native species. However, honeybees are susceptible to various pathogens which can compound and cause colony failure. Nosema ceranae is one such pathogen.
Nosema ceranae is a fungal parasite that can infect the midgut of Western honeybees (Apis mellifera). Nosema infections can cause higher mortality rates and can contribute to the death of entire hives. Issues with Nosema are heightened in cold areas like Alberta, Canada as its detrimental effects are aggravated by cold climates.
The severity of Nosema and its impacts in Alberta has increased this year as the only treatment available for Nosema, a fungicide called fumagillin, has been discontinued. Team UAlberta discovered this issue after speaking with members of the beekeeping community who expressed the desparate need for a fumagillin alternative. Thus, Team UAlberta’s objective was to develop a solution that would address the loss of fumagillin.
The Big Picture
Building off of information collected from our interviews with stakeholders in the beekeeping community and consulting published literature, we developed APIS: an Antifungal Porphyrin-based Intervention System for treating Nosema infections in honeybees. APIS aims to use engineered Escherichia coli to overproduce molecules, called porphyrins, which has been shown to damage Nosema spores. As a result, APIS presents a potential replacement for traditional fungicides and can be used as a preventative measure and treatment for Nosema infections.