Melissococcus plutonius

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Melissococcus plutonius

Domain: Bacteria

Phylum: Firmicutes

Class: Bacilli

Order: Lactobaillales

Family: Enterococcaceae

Genus: Melissococcus

Species: Melissococcus plutonius

Description and Significance

Melissococcus plutonius is a European foul brood that is an important disease of honey bees. It is found on conctinents where Apis mellifera is kept. In 1980, Bailey and Collins had reclassification of the European foul brood disease. It state that the plutonius infect the honeybee larvae in broadly separate parts. In 1982, they introduce the new reclassified name as Melissococcus pluton. Then 1998, Truper and Clari change the name to Melissococcus plutonius to meet the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.


The M. plutonius DAT561 genome is a single circular chromosome with an average GC content of 31.5%. It also have 4 rRNA operons, 55 tRNA genes for all the amino acids, 18 pseudogenes, and the chromosome contain a total of 1,531 CDSs. They also have four incomplete prophages. The genome contain two plasmids and three pseudogenes were found in the pMP1 plasmid. The plasmids have an average GC content of 29.2% and 30.3%.

Cell Structure, Metabolism and Life Cycle

The M. plutonius is a prokaryotic cell. The life cycle from a M. plutonius is when a parasitic mite (Varroa destructor) bites a bee. Inside the infected larva is when the bacterial concentrate into the food mass. Then the peritrophic membrane react with the bacteria, where they produce at. It sometimes depend on the level of the infection on weather the infected larva will survive or not. If the nurse bees can get an increase of food supple then it can reduce the larval death.

Ecology and Known Roles in Symbiosis

Honey bees are important to agriculture but the European foul brood is very serious and infectious disease. The disease can cause problem with many things such as beekeeping industry and agricultural production. It can also effect the habitats because the impact that honeybees have on other animals. The will cause negative effect on the bee biodiversity.

Fun Facts

Some fun facts on the Melissococcus plutonius are that it have a sour odour to it. It also have a scale which is rubbery, brown to black looking. It have a spotty brood pattern in a honey bee colony. It sometimes be melted in the cells and be mushy. The remaining part be slightly ropey with threads less then 1.5cm long. You can test the remains by sticking a tooth pick into the hole to see if its ropey looking.


Forsgren, E., Lundhagen, A.C., Imdorf, A. et al. Distribution of Melissococcus plutonius in Honeybee Colonies with and without Symptoms of European Foulbrood. Microb Ecol 50, 369–374 (2005).

Jyothis P. Joseph, Amritha V. S.. (2019) Survey and etiology of bacterial brood disease infecting Indian honey bees (Apis cerana indica F.) in Southern Kerala. Journal of Apicultural Research 0:0, pages 1-9.

Kayo Okumura, Rie Arai, Masatoshi Okura, Teruo Kirikae, Daisuke Takamatsu, Makoto Osaki, Tohru Miyoshi-Akiyama. Journal of Bacteriology Jul 2011, 193 (15) 4029-4030; DOI: 10.1128/JB.05151-11

K. Mohan Rao, Sapna Katna, Bachittar Singh Rana, Rakesh Rana. (2015) Thai sacbrood and sacbrood viruses versus European foulbrood of hive bees in India – a review. Journal of Apicultural Research 54:3, pages 192-199.

Oleg Lewkowski and Silvio Erler, Virulence of Melissococcus plutonius and secondary invaders associated with European foulbrood disease of the honey bee, MicrobiologyOpen, 8, 3, (2018).


This page was authored by Hakias Davis as part of the 2020 UM Study USA led by Dr. Erik Hom at the University of Mississippi.