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Cell phone microscope detects a "quiet killer" of honey bees

Demonstration of the use of a portable sensor for parasites based on smartphones. Credit: UCLA Engineering Institute for Technology Advancement

Bees are among the most important species responsible for pollination of about one-third of the world's food supply, with their contribution to the United States alone is worth 15-20 billion dollars each year. The rapid decline of bee colonies globally, and especially in the United States, has caused increased pressure on agricultural pollination and the future of food safety. Parasites are one of the factors that affect the bee population, with Nosema ceranea and Nosema apis being the most common. Aspirin infection can have symptoms of dysentery and defaecation of bees at the entrance to the hive, but infection with Nosema ceranee does not show any physical symptoms. These "silent killers" of honey bees infect workers of bees, drones and queen bees, and may even result in colony collapse.

At present, the only approach to diagnosing this disease is by accurately detecting parasite spores using a light microscope. However, this traditional testing is carried out in laboratory conditions and requires expert work. Therefore, the beekeeper must send local samples to a remote laboratory for accurate diagnosis, which is time-consuming and expensive.

Researchers at UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Barnard College biology department, developed a mobile phone microscope that enables fast and automatic detection of Nosema spores in the bees in the area. This mobile and economical platform, weighing just 0.8 kg, is composed of a fluorescent microscope based on smartphones, developed smartphone application and easy to perform the protocol for sample preparation that allows fluorescence to denote spores of parasites from bees even in the field.

Eydogan Ozcan, a professor at the California Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, and associate director of the California California Nanosystems Institute in Los Angeles, conducted the research in collaboration with Jonathan Sond, Associate Professor at the Barnard College of Biology at New York College and Hatidze Cheylan Koydemir, a senior research associate in Los Angeles. The study was published in Laboratory of chip, the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK).

Diagnosis of diseases from this new platform involves the preparation of samples where the honey bee stomach is removed and decomposes, and then a small amount of stain on the fluorescence marking of the parasitic spores is added. The drop of the prepared solution is then placed on a glass slide, which is then inserted into the mobile telephone microscope for analysis. The image of the sample is then taken up by the smartphone and transferred to a computer for automatic analysis to quickly detect the number of spores that it returns to the user in less than 90 seconds.

The researchers tested the performance of this mobile platform using samples from the field and found that the device is capable of detecting the parasite concentration per bee below the threshold required for counseling for treatment of Nosemma parasites. Therefore, this mobile-based instrument meets the required detection sensitivity to establish the treatment.

"Ensuring the wellbeing of bees is a very important problem for global food safety and the stability of ecosystems. There are many factors that influence the rapid decline of the bee population, with parasitic infections playing a significant role. The developmental mobile device paves the way for solving this new problem is inexpensive, and, in our knowledge, it is the first and only existing portable platform for detecting Nosema disputes in field settings. " said Ozcan.

The study was supported by the North American Countries Pollution Prevention Campaign, the National Research Center for Scientific Research (ERC) and the Medical Institute Howard Hughes (HHMI).

Explore further:
The small parasite may contribute to the decline of bee colonies by infecting larvae

More information:
Jonathan V. Snow and cheese. Rapid recording, detection and quantification of Nosema ceranae spores in honey bees using fluorescence microscopy based on mobile phones, Laboratory of chip (2019). DOI: 10.1039 / C8LC01342J

Reference in the newspaper:
Laboratory of chip

Provided by:
UCLA Engineering Institute of Technology Advancement

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