U.S. beekeepers will soon have a new antibiotic to
protect their colonies from American foulbrood disease. The bacterium that
causes the disease is becoming resistant to the only other approved control.
New Antibiotic Approved for Treating Bacterial Honey Bee
By Jan Suszkiw
December 19, 2005
American beekeepers will soon have
a new antibiotic with which to protect their colonies from American foulbrood
disease, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studies that paved the way for the
compound's regulatory approval.
TYLAN Soluble (tylosin tartrate), produced by
Elanco Animal Health of Greenfield, Ind.,
was approved for use October 20 by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration, following the agency's review of research data
compiled by scientists with the ARS
Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
American foulbrood is among the most widespread and devastating diseases of
honey bees. Caused by the bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, the disease
kills young bee larvae and transforms their remains into dark, shriveled ropes
or "scales." These contain billions of spores that are easily spread
by nurse bees. Although American foulbrood poses no human danger, severe
outbreaks can weaken or kill entire bee colonies, according to
Feldlaufer, who leads the ARS Beltsville bee lab.
Before tylosin tartrate, only one other antibiotic, oxytetracycline
hydrochloride (Terramycin), was available for use against American foulbrood.
However, reliance on this one compound has prompted the emergence of resistant
strains of American foulbrood.
Tylosin tartrate is already approved for therapeutic use in chickens and
swine, and as a feed-efficiency aid in turkeys. Its approval for honey bees
marks a first for a so-called minor animal species. Feldlaufer's team made this
approval possible by furnishing the FDA with a wealth of information on tylosin
tartrate's field efficacy and safety, both for honey bees and humans. For
example, the team determined the necessary dosage, application methods and
timing of treatment in honey bee hives.
Although the drug approval labels honey bees as a "minor animal
species," the bee's importance to U.S. agriculture is hardly minor. By one
estimate, honey bee pollination of apples, almonds, blueberries and many other
agricultural crops results in yield and quality improvements valued at more
than $14 billion annually.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.