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.
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