Kiwi disease traced to China
By Alan Harman

An international research team has used DNA sequencing technology to trace the devastating kiwi fruit pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (PSA) back to its likely place of origin – China.

In the four years since it was first reported in Italy, the ‘kiwi fruit canker’ disease caused by PSA has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of losses in New Zealand, Europe and South America. A similar disease broke out in the 1980s in China and Japan, but nobody knew if the same pathogen is currently wreaking havoc throughout the rest of the kiwi fruit world – until now.

The research team is led by Virginia Tech’s Prof Boris Vinatzer and Giorgio Balestra of the University of Tuscia in Italy. “It was detective work,” said Vinatzer in the journal PLoS ONE, “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 US immediately banned all imports of kiwi fruit plant material and pollen to keep it from infecting American crops, and so far, the bacteria have not been found in the US.

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