Widespread antibiotic usage in apiculture contributes substantially to the global dissemination of antimicrobial resistance and has the potential to negatively influence bacterial symbionts of honey bees ( Apis mellifera). Here, we show that routine antibiotic administration with oxytetracycline selectively increased tetB (efflux pump resistance gene) abundance in the gut microbiota of adult workers while concurrently depleting several key symbionts known to regulate immune function and nutrient metabolism such as Frischella perrera and Lactobacillus Firm-5 strains. These microbial changes were functionally characterized by decreased capped brood counts (marker of hive nutritional status and productivity) and reduced antimicrobial capacity of adult hemolymph (indicator of immune competence). Importantly, combination therapy with three immunostimulatory Lactobacillus strains could mitigate antibiotic-associated microbiota dysbiosis and immune deficits in adult workers, as well as maximize the intended benefit of oxytetracycline by suppressing larval pathogen loads to near-undetectable levels. We conclude that microbial-based therapeutics may offer a simple but effective solution to reduce honey bee disease burden, environmental xenobiotic exposure, and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
Daisley et al. show that antibiotic treatment with oxytetracycline impairs the gut microbiota and immune system of honey bees, and reduces capped brood counts. They also show that supplementation with lactobacilli during antibiotic recovery can reverse the harmful effects of the antibiotic treatment. Their findings offer a simple microbial-based solution that aims to reduce honey bee disease burden, environmental pollution by xenobiotics, and spread of antimicrobial resistance.