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Seed Week reports:

A viral pathogen that typically infects plants has been found in honey bees and could help explain their decline.

Researchers reported their findings in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The screening of bees for frequent and rare viruses resulted in the detection of tobacco ringspot virus (TRSV), prompting an investigation into whether this plant-infecting virus could also cause systemic infection in bees.

"The study provides the first evidence that honey bees exposed to virus-contaminated pollen can also be infected," says lead author Ji Lian Li from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science in Beijing.

"We know that honey bees can transmit TRSV when they move from flower-to-flower, likely spreading the virus from one plant to another."

The researchers conclude that, "the increasing prevalence of TRSV in conjunction with other bee viruses is associated with a gradual decline of host populations and supports the view that viral infections have a significant negative impact on colony survival."

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