Humans Aren’t the Only Vaccinators

I suppose everyone knows about vaccination, but what I didn’t realize is that other species  can practice a form of vaccination too.

In the February 2016 issue of National Geographic, an “Explore Science” entry is entitled “Immunity For Insects”.  Apparently vaccinations can also be passed from mother to young.  We knew higher animals could do this, now it appears some invertebrates like honeybees also have this ability.  A group of researchers, Dalial Freitak and Heli Salmela of the University of Helsinki and Gro Amdam of Arizona State University, have discovered that queen bees transfer pieces of disease-causing bacteria to their offspring through an egg-yoke protein called vitellogenin.  Vitellogenin can travel from the queen’s blood to a liverlike organ and on to her eggs.  Once consumed by the developing bees, it gives them immunity against local illnesses.

The significance is this knowledge could help scientists develop bee vaccines.  And we need to give these pollinators all the help we can.

By the way, if you’d like to know more about how this works in humans, there is a good discussion at http://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/meds/vaccine-protection/ entitled “Do Mom’s Vaccines Protect Her Breastfed Baby?”  —  “Breastfeeding will enhance baby’s response to immunizations that he receives, however, breastfeeding will not act as a substitute for immunization.”

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