Researchers believe they may be able to utilize the Asian citrus psyllid’s gut bacteria to keep the pest from spreading citrus greening.
Researchers are looking for any way they can find to stop citrus greening, also called HLB. The disease has devastated the Florida citrus industry, and it’s threatening the citrus industries of other states as well. One option researchers are looking into is to stop the vector that spreads citrus greening, the Asian citrus psyllid. Among other options, researchers are looking into whether they can use the psyllid’s own gut bacteria, according to a Citrus Industry article. See a summary below.
Stopping Citrus Greening by Stopping the Asian Psyllid
The research carried out by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) scientists looked at why some psyllids spread the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), which causes citrus greening, better than other psyllids. They believe it’s how the CLas bacterium interact with the psyllid’s gut bacteria.
According to the article, bacteria must pass through the cells lining the insect’s gut and multiply. The CLas cause stress in the psyllid’s gut cells, and some cells die. This allows the CLas bacteria to leave the psyllid and infect citrus trees.
However, young psyllid nymphs seem to have a resistance to this process. Their gut cells don’t die, and CLas doesn’t escape. Researchers believe the gut bacteria found in nymph psyllids may have something to do with the resistance. Scientists are hoping they can transfer that resistance to adult psyllids and effectively halting the spread of CLas and citrus greening. The study was published in Infection and Immunity.
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Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.