“Antibiotic (Tylosin) in Honey”
Bee Culture (December 2005), Vol. 133 (12): 20-22
Malcolm T. Sanford
The comments by Editor Kim Flottum in the October, 2005 Bee Culture with reference to testing honey are timely. Perhaps it’s indeed the hour to “talk about something nobody wants to talk about.” I have received unconfirmed reports that antibiotic is being found in U.S. honey like other places in the world confronted with Terramycin®-resistant American foulbrood. Fortunately, examples of this appear to be few at the present time.
The antibiotic involved is tylosin lactate, sometimes simply called tylosin. It has different properties than the product Terramycin®, often referred to as TM, which is formulated using oxytetracyline (Oxy-Tet). There is zero tolerance for tylosin in honey, meaning that any amount found, no matter how small, will likely result in marketing and regulatory consequences. Although veterinarians might prescribe tylosin as an “extra label drug use” (see discussion below), this is void if a “violative food residue, or any residue which may present a risk to public health” is found.
I am shocked but not surprised at this turn of events. It was retiring Dr. Bill Wilson in this magazine who stated, “The U.S. Beekeeping industry could be faced with a widespread epidemic of American foulbrood disease (AFB) that would be just as destructive as uncontrolled infestation of varroa mites. This scenario could take place if beekeepers fail to control Terramycin-resistant AFB and scientists fail to develop an effective substitute…”1
Is history repeating itself?
I reported in my Apis newsletter over a decade
ago that: “While at the Fifth Ibero Latin American
Congress on Apiculture held May 30 through June 2, 1996 in Mercedes, Uruguay, I
learned what can happen when AFB gets out of hand. Since it was first discovered
“The fact that Argentinean beekeepers went through the above phases, however, appears to have led to something more serious than in other parts of the world. It is the only country to my knowledge where Paenibacillus larvae has become resistant to oxytetracycline. This was confirmed in a study reported at the Mercedes congress by A. Alippi and M. Aguilar (National University of Mar de la Plata). They used biochemical techniques (PCR) to analyze bacterial DNA. Resistance was found in only 28 percent of samples, but this translated to 58 percent of tested locations in the country.
“Argentine researchers reported on another product, tylosin lactate (evidence of its effectiveness was first published by John Hitchcock and colleagues at the Laramie Bee Laboratory in the Journal of Economic Entomology. 63:1, pp. 204-207, February, 1970), which they say will control the disease as an alternative to Erythromycin and oxytetracycline.”2
Dr. Nick Calderone at
He futher quotes Dr. Mark Feldlaufer, Research Leader at the USDA Beltsville Bee Laboratory: “While a large amount of work has been completed, we are not done. FDA must review all material submitted, and everything dealing with antibiotic use in agriculture is being scrutinized. The January 6, 2001 issue of the N.Y. Times pointed to the (over) use of antibiotics in farm animals merely for the prevention of disease. A Jan. 19th editorial in the prestigious journal SCIENCE stated that ‘Using the same antibiotics in people and animals is a bad idea.’ and a Feb. 19th article in Chemical & Engineering News was titled ‘Furor over animal antibiotic use’. Faced with this intense scrutiny, FDA has indicated the shortest route to approval is as a ‘dust’ and for the ‘control’ of AFB. Syrup with antibiotic poses a greater residue risk, while ‘preventative’ treatments for AFB amount to using an antibiotic in the absence of disease, a policy being reviewed by FDA. Even with ‘dusting’ for the ‘control’ of AFB, I’m guessing approval for lincomycin and/or tylosin is at least a year away.
“So, what can a beekeeper do when faced with Terramycin-resistant AFB in the interim? There is something known as ‘AMDUCA’. This stands for the ‘Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994’, and it allows for the extra label drug use (ELDU) of certain approved antibiotics. ‘Extra label use’ means using an antibiotic approved for let’s say chickens and swine, for honey bees. The key is that the antibiotic needs to be prescribed by a veterinarian!”
I looked up the following information about the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act: 4
Requirements For Extra Label Drug Use (ELDU)
Label Requirements Include:
“For interim solution,
Editor Flottum points out, most
Word of mouth and various writings appear to have communicated the message that tylosin works as West Virginia WVDA State Apiarist George Clutter is reported to have said, “even better than the Terramycin did.”6 A significant problem seems to be that many are using the material like they did Terramycin as a preventative (prophylactic), may also be mixing it in similar proportions (tylosin is much more concentrated) and/or feeding it in syrup, which further increases the risk of honey contamination.
Here’s what Harry Fulton, Mississippi’s State Apiarist
writes, “Terramycin has been used by beekeepers since
the early 1950s for the control of AFB, and the development of terramycin-resistant AFB has long been a serious concern.
Without an effective antibiotic to combat AFB, the only way to deal with AFB is
to destroy by burning hives and bees with the disease. Work carried out by the
USDA Bee research labs in conjunction with beekeepers and state apiary
personnel around the country has shown that the antibiotic, tylosin,
is effective at controlling AFB and has substantial safety for both bees and
human. Elanco, the producer of tylosin,
will be submitting the paperwork for registration of Tylan
for use in honey beehives. Mann Lake Ltd. will be selling the product in bulk
and in tea bag-like individual packets.
Editor Flottum points out that questions remain concerning how much contamination is
too much and that testing for residues in honey is not an exact science. These are academic, however, because again
there is no residue limit for tylosin in honey in the
Breaking news as I complete this column is that a label for TYLAN® (tylosin tartrate) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.8 The details so far have yet to be made available. Whether labeled or not, one conclusion is increasingly clear. Using tylosin for AFB control, especially as a prophylactic and in liquid form, could be a “smoking gun” in the making when it comes to honey contamination. Due diligence is demanded of all when using this material.
W.T. 2000. “An overview of Foulbrood in
<http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/PDFs/Dec2000-87.pdf>, accessed October 19, 2005.
2. Sanford, M.T. 1996. Apis
3. Calderone, N.
2004. Northeast Master Beekeeper Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1. January
<http://www.masterbeekeeper.org/northeast2.htm >, accessed October 19, 2005.
4. Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act <http://www.avma.org/scienact/amduca/amduca1.asp>, accessed October 19, 2005.
5. Nasr, M. 2004. Antibiotic Residues: An Issue for Honey Producers, Alberta Beekeepers Newsletter, August <http://www.albertabeekeepers.org/Articles/2004%20Antibiotic%20Residues.html>, accessed October 19, 2005.
6. West Virginia Department of Agriculture Press release 4/11/02 <http://www.wvagriculture.org/news_releases/2002/4-11-2002.htm>.