Development of molecular tools for honeybee virus research: the South African contribution
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Increasing knowledge of the association of honeybee viruses with other honeybee parasites, primarily the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor, and their implication in the mass mortality of honeybee colonies has resulted in increasing awareness and interest in honeybee viruses. In addition the identification, monitoring and prevention of spread of bee viruses is of considerable importance, particularly when considering the lack of information on the natural incidence of virus infections in honeybee populations worldwide. A total of eighteen honeybee viruses have been identified and physically characterized. Most of them have physical features resembling picornaviruses, and are referred to as picorna-like viruses. The complete genome sequences of four picorna-like honeybee viruses, namely Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV), Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV), Sacbrood Virus (SBV) and Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) have been determined. The availability of this sequence data has lead to great advances in the studies on honeybee viruses. In particular, the development of a reverse genetics system for BQCV, will open new opportunities for studies directed at understanding the molecular biology, persistence, pathogenesis, and interaction of these bee viruses with other parasites. This review focuses on the contribution of the Honeybee Virus Research Group (HBVRG), from the University of the Western Cape of South Africa, in the development of molecular tools for the study of molecular biology and pathology of these viruses.
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