The silkworm is a monophagous insect, feeding only on the leaves of the mulberry tree. The fortunes of the silkworm and the mulberry tree are indissolubly associated, and when man steps in and patronizes the union between the two in order to get cocoons, there results an industry called sericulture. In the mid-nineteenth century, French sericulture suffered extensive damages due to a silkworm disease known as pebrine. In the afflicted area, silkworm eggs did not hatch or gave rise to languishing larvae, the majority of which died prematurely. Few silkworms that managed to reach the moth stage produced deficient eggs which reproduced the same phenomena. Sericulturists knew by experience that the choice of healthy eggs was essential for successful cocoon harvest.
Scientific research on pebrine was initiated in 1850’s. French and Italian scientists noted the presence of numerous oval corpuscles in various tissues of sick silkworms. Swiss scientists considered the corpuscle to be yeast like fungus and gave it the present name Nosema bombycis. Louis Pasteur, who entered the field of microbial disease in animals by studying pebrine, recommended sericulturists to use only the eggs laid by mother moths with no corpuscles in their tissues. The purpose of this article is to review the epizootiology of pebrine and to explore the relationship between epizootiology and actual disease management in sericulture.
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