Wolbachia infection of honey bee parasites

Many viruses spread using arthropods as vectors. For humans, these include dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, etc. Honey bees are likewise sensitive to viral infection, and viruses spread by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor have wreaked havoc on bee populations worldwide. We are interested in understanding the biology of Varroa and developing strategies for its control. In the process of sequencing the Varroa genome, we found that some populations appear to harbor the Wolbachia bacteria. This is a fascinating intracellular parasite, which can manipulate the host’s biology, selfishly spreading through the population. Wolbachia is currently being explored as a mechanism for controlling dengue in humans (see this video). We would like to learn more about Wolbachia in Varroa, and to assemble its genome, with an eye to potentially using it as a control agent in the future. This short-term project will focus on using existing sequencing data for genome assembly, and to compare Varroa Wolbachia to other sequenced strains to try to understand its biology.