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Bee virus investigator wins Vita Research Award at Apimondia 2007

The 2007 Vita Research Award has been won by a Jordanian scientist, recognised for his study of honeybee viruses.

Dr Nizar Haddad, of Jordan’s National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension, was presented with the award at Apimondia 2007 in Melbourne, Australia.
Dr Haddad, who also works at the Bee Research Unit in Jordan, investigates the pathogens that affect honeybees, working to enable the technological transfer of results to beekeepers in his own country and elsewhere.”

With the current suspicion that a virus first identified in Israel is a suspected cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in America, the subject area of this year’s award is particularly relevant.

Dr Max Watkins, Technical Director of Vita, said: “The more we study the causes of honeybee disease, the more important the role of viruses appears to be. Dr Haddad’s research is particularly timely because of the current suspicions that Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) – named because it was first identified in Israel – may be an underlying factor in CCD in America and may eventually be found to be associated with other sudden bee losses around the world. Researchers are by no means certain that this is the main cause, but Dr Haddad’s work may help cast some light on the issue.”

Dr Haddad said: “Viruses are a prime source of confusion and error in diagnosing and managing honeybee diseases because there is a poor understanding of the dynamics underlying viral disease outbreaks. So far, at least 18 honeybee viruses have been identified across the globe and many of these can be present in a colony at any one time. It is therefore very difficult to identify bee virus infections and almost impossible to differentiate mixed virus infections in the field. We have established a specialized laboratory to study viruses and other diseases using molecular techniques and want to co-operate not only with the Arab world but with scientists and specialists across the globe.”

A comprehensive virus survey using DNA-sequencing technologies, says Dr Haddad, may yield new strains of known viruses and possibly entirely new virus species, as well as providing an indication of the distribution of viruses and strains known throughout the rest of the world.

In 1992, varroa was first observed in the UK and in 1995 it took a huge toll with as many as 70% of bee colonies being wiped out in the worst-hit areas. Progressive beekeepers quickly learned to apply anti-varroa treatments and the situation was largely kept under control.

Welcoming the research, Jeremy Owen, Sales Director of Vita, said: “We have been particularly pleased with the quality of the research resulting from Vita’s first two awards which were announced at Apimondia 2005 and 2007. Applications for the next award, which is offered biannually, should be received by 30 May 2008. Projects can focus on any aspect of honeybee health and we welcome applications from individuals and organisations.

President Viktor Yuschenko of the Ukraine, a life-long beekeeper, is Patron of the Vita Research award, which was first presented in 2005. The inaugural winner of the prize was Dr Alexandros Papachristoforou, of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, for his work on chalkbrood control. As a fungal brood disease, chalkbrood can debilitate colonies and is especially serious in certain parts of the world, but had no effective treatment. Papachristoforou discovered that both a new bacterial product, CBB and Apiguard can be very effective controls and demonstrated the conditions for their maximum efficacy.

Applications for Vita’s next research award, with a closing date of 31 May 2008, may now be submitted. See www.vita-europe.com

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