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Molecular Detection of Malpighamoeba mellificae in Honey Bees

Malpighamoeba mellificae is a protozoan that infects the Malpighian tubules of honey bees. The amoebae, ingested as cysts, develop into trophozoites that feed upon tubule epithelia. The resulting damage of the Malpighian tubules can induce an imbalance of waste excretion and hemolymph exchange. This causes the so-called amoebiasis disease in adult bees, which may co-occur with Nosema infections. Most reports of this amoeba are from the 1960s and earlier, and knowledge of the disease and its spreading is very poor. The lack of any genetic marker for the species hampers its sensitive identification using molecular tools and gaining knowledge on its epidemiology. Here, we present a diagnostic RT-qPCR assay, consisting of two primers and one probe that were developed based on 18S rRNA sequences of the amoeba, generated with metagenomic sequencing of Malpighian tubules with and without M. mellificae cysts. The assay was initially tested and adjusted with samples microscopically tested for the presence of M. mellificae cysts. Later, it was validated and material with unknown infection status was tested. The sensitive diagnostic Malpighamoeba disease 18S assay is now ready to be applied for honey bee health monitoring purposes and to investigate the prevalence of M. mellificae in more detail.



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