Roche researchers aided study identifying honeybee virus

September 6, 2007
Roche Diagnostics is sharing in the publicity this afternoon as the journal Science releases a study that identifies a virus involved in the sudden death of billions of honeybees.

About half a dozen employees of Roche subsidiary 454 Life Sciences collaborated with researchers at Columbia University to conduct the study, which was posted on the Science Web site. Columbia's team paid to use 454's Genome Sequencer system, and 454's team performed data analysis for the project.

Roche's North American diagnostic division, headquartered in Indianapolis, acquired Connecticut-based 454 in April for $140 million. In Indianapolis, Roche employs 3,700, making medical tests and overseeing sales and marketing.

By reading DNA sequences from healthy and unhealthy bee colonies, Columbia's researchers found that one virus, called Israeli acute paralysis virus, was found only in the unhealthy colonies.

The study does not prove that the Israeli virus caused bee colonies to collapse. But the virus can be used as a marker for the problem, which is called colony collapse disorder.

The disorder was discovered in the United States in the fall of 2006, according to a press release from Roche. It has since been found in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. The disorder has wiped out 50 percent to 90 percent of bees in infected colonies.

Bees pollinate scores of fruit and vegetable crops worldwide. A report by the Congressional Research Service estimates that bees in the United States pollinate $15 billion of agricultural products every year.

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