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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Bee Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #391035

Research Project: Managing Honey Bees Against Disease and Colony Stress

Location: Bee Research Laboratory

Title: Can floral nectars reduce transmission of Leishmania

item PALMER-YOUNG, EVAN - Orise Fellow
item SCHWARZ, RYAN - Fort Lewis College
item Chen, Yanping - Judy
item Evans, Jay

Submitted to: PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2022
Publication Date: 5/12/2022
Citation: Palmer-Young, E., Schwarz, R., Chen, Y., Evans, J.D. 2022. Can floral nectars reduce transmission of Leishmania. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 16(5):Article e0010373.

Interpretive Summary: Many animals, from honey bees to humans, suffer from disease saused by trypanosome parasites. Recent work suggests that honey bees can reduce the impoacts of thse parasites by feeding on nectar and pollen from certain plants. Chemicals in thee plants lower disease levels either by directly inhibiting parasites or indirectly by improving honey bee defenses. This study expands work with honey bees to insects that vector trypanosome parasites that cause human disease. It is possible that planting forage for the flies that transmit human disease will impact their parasite levels, thereby reducing direct threats to human health. This study shows the parallels between helping a key agricultural pollinator and the reduction of human disease.

Technical Abstract: Insect-vectored Leishmania are the second most debilitating of human parasites worldwide. Related trypanosome parasites are damaging to honey bees and other pollinators. Trypanosome parasites of honey bees can be controlled by natural plant chemicals fed to their honey bee hosts. Similarly, trypanosome parasites of humans, including Leishmania, might be reduced when their insect hosts (sand flies and mosquitoes) feed on certain plant nectars. This review demonstrates that levels of plant chemicals that reduce trypanosome levels are found in plant nectars, suggesting that these plants can be used as forage to naturally reduce disease levels. Comparisons between trypanosome parasites of honey bees and humans can speed the search for effect treatments for a vital pollinator as well as human disease.