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Gut microbiome dysbiosis and honeybee health


D. Daffonchio (corresponding authors), Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Alimentari e Microbiologiche (DiSTAM), Università degli Studi di Milano, 20133 Milan, Italy. E-mail: A. Cherif, Laboratoire des Microrganismes et Biomolecules Actives (LMBA), Université de Tunis ‘El Manar’, Tunis, Tunisia. E-mail:


Since a few decades, apiculture is facing important economic losses worldwide with general major consequences in many areas of agriculture. A strong attention has been paid towards the phenomenon named Colony Collapse Disorder in which colonies suddenly disappear with no clear explanations. Honeybee colonies can be affected by abiotic factors, such as environmental pollution or insecticide applications for agricultural purposes. Also biotic stresses cause colony losses, including bacterial (e.g. Paenibacillus larvae) and fungal (e.g. Ascosphaera apis) pathogens, microsporidia (e.g. Nosema apis), parasites (i.e. Varroa destructor) and several viruses. In the light of recent research, intestinal dysbiosis, considered as the relative disproportion of the species within the native microbiota, has shown to affect human and animal health. In arthropods, alteration of the gut microbial climax community has been shown to be linked to health and fitness disequilibrium, like in the medfly Ceratitis capitata for which low mate competitiveness is determined by a gut microbial community imbalance. According to these observations, it is possible to hypothesize that dysbiosis may have a role in disease occurrence also in honeybees. Here we aim to discuss the current knowledge on dysbiosis in the honeybee and its relation with honeybee health by reviewing the investigations of the microbial diversity associated to honeybees and the recent experiments performed to control bee diseases by microbial symbionts. We conclude that, despite the importance of a good functionality of the associated microbiota in preserving insect health has been proved, the mechanisms involved in honeybee gut dysbiosis are still unknown. Accurate in vitro, in vivo and in field investigations are required under healthy, diseased and stressed conditions for the host.