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An international inter-laboratory study on Nosema spp. spore detection and quantification through microscopic examination of crushed honey bee abdomens

Nosemosis is a microsporidian disease causing mortality and weakening of honey bee colonies, especially in the event of co-exposure to other sources of stress. As a result, the disease is regulated in some countries. Reliable and harmonised diagnosis is crucial to ensure the quality of surveillance and research results. For this reason, the first European Interlaboratory Comparison (ILC) was organised in 2017 in order to assess both the methods and the results obtained by National Reference Laboratories (NRLs) in counting Nosema spp. spores by microscopy. Implementing their own routine conditions of analysis, the 23 participants were asked to perform an assay on a panel of ten positive and negative samples of crushed honey bee abdomens. They were asked to report results from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint. The assessment covered specificity, sensitivity, trueness and precision. Quantitative results were analysed in compliance with international standards NF ISO 13528 (2015) and NF ISO 5725-2 (1994). Three results showed a lack of precision and five a lack of trueness. However, overall results indicated a global specificity of 98% and a global sensitivity of 100%, thus demonstrating the advanced performance of the microscopic methods applied to Nosema spores by the NRLs. Therefore, the study concluded that using microscopy to detect and quantify spores of Nosema spp. was reliable and valid.

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