• Patrick Dawkins

Phage Research into AFB Prevention Gets Funding Boost

Research into the potential use of bacteriophages as a treatment against American foulbrood (AFB) infection in beehives has gained the financial backing to continue for another 18 months, moving it a step closer to potential field trails.

Dr Heather Hendrickson’s lab, which she has relocated from Massey University in Auckland to Canterbury University in Christchurch this year, will continue the hunt for phages which can kill off AFB pathogens and potentially prevent infection in hives, as well as the next steps in the research dubbed “ABAtE”.

New funding secured totals $140,00, made up of $100,000 from the Agriculture and Marketing Research Development Trust (AGMARDT) and $40,000 from the Honey Industry Trust.

“We are really lucky to get this money and I would like to thank both organisations for their support of our research,” Dr Hendrickson says.

PHD student Danielle Kok, who is working on the ABAtE project, plans to relocate to Christchurch to continue the “phage hunt” while also working with Dr Ashley Mortensen of Plant and Food Research to carry out some critical testing of honey bee larvae and the impact of AFB bacteria and phage combinations on them.

Danielle Kok, left, will continue her research into phage therapy for AFB in the lab of Dr Heather Hendrickson, right, thanks to a $140,000 funding boost.

“At the end of this season we have managed to get a little bit of larvae testing done with Plant and Food Research, but there was something weird happening with the experiment. So, we would really like to repeat that. This funding will allow us to do that,” Hendrickson says.

“We have to carry out more of the larvae tests and then once we have established the safety of the bacteriophages, we need to do field trials. So, it is about scaling up to the point of doing field trials. We have got a lot of support from industry, in terms of where we could carry out the trials, but it is about getting to the point where we can. This funding is a big help in that regard.

“There is very little you can do without ongoing funding, but we are luck in that people feel this research is really important to do and we have a great crew working on it.”


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