By providing pollination services, bees are among the most important insects, both in ecological and economical terms. Combined next-generation and classical sequencing approaches were applied to discover and study new insect viruses potentially harmful to bees. A bioinformatics virus discovery pipeline was used on individual Illumina transcriptomes of 13 wild bees from three species from the genus Halictus and 30 ants from six species of the genera Messor and Aphaenogaster. This allowed the discovery and description of three sequences of a new virus termed Halictus scabiosae Adlikon virus (HsAV). Phylogenetic analyses of ORF1, RNA-dependent RNA-polymerase (RdRp) and capsid genes showed that HsAV is closely related to (+)ssRNA viruses of the unassigned Sinaivirus genus but distant enough to belong to a different new genus we called Halictivirus. In addition, our study of ant transcriptomes revealed the first four sinaivirus sequences from ants (Messor barbarus, M. capitatus and M. concolor). Maximum likelihood phylogenetic analyses were performed on a 594 nt fragment of the ORF1/RdRp region from 84 sinaivirus sequences, including 31 new Lake Sinai viruses (LSVs) from honey bees collected in five countries across the globe and the four ant viral sequences. The phylogeny revealed four main clades potentially representing different viral species infecting honey bees. Moreover, the ant viruses belonged to the LSV4 clade, suggesting a possible cross-species transmission between bees and ants. Lastly, wide honey bee screening showed that all four LSV clades have worldwide distributions with no obvious geographical segregation.
During an entomological surveillance for arthropod-borne viruses in the Philippines, we isolated a previously unrecognized virus from female Armigeres spp. mosquitoes. Whole-genome sequencing, genetic characterization and phylogenetic analysis revealed that the isolated virus, designated Armigeres iflavirus (ArIFV), is a novel member of the iflaviruses (genus Iflavirus, family Iflaviridae) and phylogenetically related to Moku virus, Hubei odonate virus 4, slow bee paralysis virus and Graminella nigrifrons virus 1. To our knowledge, this is the first successful isolation of iflavirus from a dipteran insect. Spherical ArIFV particles of approximately 30 nm in diameter contained at least three major structural proteins. ArIFV multiplied to high titres (~109 p.f.u. ml−1) and formed clear plaques in a mosquito cell line, C6/36. Our findings provide new insights into the infection mechanism, genetic diversity and evolution of the Iflaviridae family.