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Virginia Tech and University of Tuscia lead team to unravel origin of devastating kiwifruit bacterium
Date:5/11/2012

This release is also available in Chinese on EurekAlert! Chinese.

An international research team led by Virginia Tech Associate Professor Boris Vinatzer and Giorgio Balestra of the University of Tuscia in Italy has used the latest DNA sequencing technology to trace a devastating pathogen back to its likely origin.

Since 2008, Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa) has been threatening the world's kiwifruit industry and destroying orchards in Europe, South America, and New Zealand. In the four years since it was first reported in Italy, the "kiwifruit canker" disease caused by Psa has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses. A similar disease broke out in the 1980s in China and Japan, but nobody knew if it was the same pathogen that is currently wreaking havoc throughout the rest of the kiwifruit world until now.

Vinatzer and Giorgio published a paper on May 9 in the journal PLoS ONE, which is the first study released in a scientific journal to trace the bacterium back to its likely origin of China.

Vinatzer is an associate professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Balestra is a senior researcher in the Department for Agriculture, Forestry, Nature and Energy at the University of Tuscia.

"It was detective work," said Vinatzer. "By sequencing the DNA, we were able to link all the bacteria back to a strain in China and determine where it probably all began."

When New Zealand reported the disease in 2010, the United States immediately banned all imports of kiwifruit plant material and pollen to keep it from infecting American crops, and so far, the bacteria have not been found in the Americ
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Contact: Zeke Barlow
zekebarlow@vt.edu
540-231-5417
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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