Mobile Microscope Detects the Silent Killer & # 39; of bees



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Demonstration of the use of the portable parasite sensor based on smartphone. Credit: UCLA Engineering Institute for the Advancement of Technology

Bees are among the most important species responsible for pollination of about one-third of the world's food supply, with their contribution only in the United States valued at $ 15-20 billion per year. The rapid decline in bee colonies around the world, and in the United States specifically, has increased the pressure on agricultural pollination and the future of food security. The parasites are one of the factors that affect the decline of the bee population, being Nosema ceranea and Nosema apis some of the most common. Nosema apis infection may have the symptoms of dysentery and defecation of bees at the entrance of the hive, but the infection by Nosema ceranae presents no physical symptoms. This & # 39; silent killer & # 39; of honey bees infects worker bees, drones and queens, and may even result in colony collapse.


Currently, the only approach to accurately diagnose this disease is through the detection of parasitic spores using a light microscope. However, this traditional test is performed in lab configurations and requires specialized operation. Therefore, a beekeeper should send local samples to a remote laboratory for an accurate diagnosis, which is time consuming and expensive.

Researchers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, in collaboration with the Department of Biology at Barnard College, have developed a mobile telemetry microscope that enables rapid and automated detection of Nosema spores in bees in field environments. This mobile, economical platform weighing just 0.8 lbs., Is made up of a smartphone-based fluorescence microscope, a custom-built smartphone application, and an easy-to-run sample preparation protocol that allows fluorescence marking of parasitic spores of bees, even in the field.

Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCLA Chancellor and associate director of UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute, led the research in collaboration with Jonathan Snow, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Barnard College (NY) and Hatice Ceylan Koydemir. , a senior associate researcher at UCLA. The study was published in Laboratory on a chip, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK).

The diagnosis of diseases by this new platform involves the preparation of samples, where the digestive tissue of the honey bees is removed and the middle intestines are dissected, followed by the addition of a small amount of a stain to fluorescently mark the parasitic spores. A drop of the prepared solution is then placed on a glass slide, which is then inserted into the microscope of the mobile phone for analysis. A sample image is then captured by the smartphone and transmitted to a computer for automated analysis to quickly reveal the spore count, which is sent back to the user in less than 90 seconds.

The researchers tested the performance of this mobile platform using field samples and determined that the device is able to detect the concentration of parasites per bee that is below the threshold needed to advise treatment against Nosema parasites. Therefore, this mobile phone-based instrument meets the sensing sensitivity required to establish the treatment.

"Ensuring the welfare of bees is a very important problem for global food security and ecosystem stability.There are many factors that affect the rapid decline of bee populations, with parasitic infections playing a significant role.The developed mobile device paves the way for solving this emerging problem. " in an inexpensive way, and, as far as we know, is the first and only portable platform to detect Nosema spores in the field. "said Ozcan.

The study was supported by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, a National Science Foundation (ERC) Engineering Research Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).


Explore more:
Tiny parasite may contribute to declines in bee colonies by infecting larvae

More information:
Jonathan W. Snow et al. Rapid imaging, detection and quantification of Nosema ceranae spores in bees using fluorescence microscopy based on cell phone, Laboratory on a chip (2019) DOI: 10.1039 / C8LC01342J

Journal Reference:
Laboratory on a chip

Provided by:
UCLA Engineering Institute for Technology Advancement

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