The need for culture collections to support plant pathogen diagnostic networks
Barba, M.; Van den Bergh, I.; Belisario, A.; Beed, F.
Research in Microbiology
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Plant-pathogenic microorganisms, by virtue of their size, similarity in disease symptoms and closely related morphologies, are notoriously difficult to diagnose and detect. Diagnosis gives proof as to the causal agent of disease and is important for developing appropriate control measures. Detection shows the presence of a microorganism and is of importance for safeguarding national and international trade. Live reference collections are required to characterize the taxonomy and function of microorganisms as a prerequisite to development of tools for diagnosis and detection. Two case studies will be presented in this paper to demonstrate the importance of microorganism collections for facilitating knowledge sharing and the development of identification methods. Fusarium wilt of banana caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense and sharka disease of stone fruits caused by plum pox virus (PPV) are considered. Both diseases consist of different races/strains with different host specificities, but Fusarium wilt poses a threat to food security, while PPV poses a threat to trade due to its classification as a quarantine pest, since there is no anti-virus treatment available to control sharka disease in orchards. It is only through comprehensive collections of correctly identified and well-maintained strains representing the genetic diversity of a target organism that robust, specific, reliable and efficient diagnostic and detection tools can be developed.