Polystyrene plastics disturb honeybee gut microbiota and immune system

Polystyrene plastics disturb honeybee gut microbiota and immune system

Micro- and nano-plastics have become emerging pollutants in the environment. Honeybees have been used as bioindicators for pollutants as their gut microbiota offers opportunities for determining how it alters host health and affects gut community dynamics.

Researchers assessed the effects of plastic particles of different sizes on honeybees' health. They found that oral exposure to polystyrene particles with a diameter of 100nm significantly decreased the whole-body weight and survival rate of honeybees.

The polystyrene exposure decreased the relative abundance of the gut bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, stimulated immune inhibitory genes and depressed genes related to detoxification and energy balance. The exposed honeybees also became more susceptible to the pathogenic bacteria Hafnia alvei, which increased mortality rate.

These results highlight the negative effects of nano-plastics on honeybees and contributes to the emerging evidence of the health risks of microscopic plastic debris.

Read the paper:

Wang, K., Zhu, K., Rao, L., Liang, Z., Wang, Y., Wu, X., Zheng, H., & Liao, H. (2022) Nano- and micro-polystyrene plastics disturb gut microbiota and intestinal immune system in honeybee. Science of The Total Environment. 842, 156819. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156819