Noticias

9 July 2020

UC Riverside discovers first effective treatment for citrus killer disease

Riverside scientists have found the first substance capable of controlling citrus greening disease, that has devastated citrus farms in Florida and also threatens California.

The new treatment effectively kills the causative bacteria of the disease with a naturally occurring molecule found in wild relatives of citrus fruits. This molecule, an antimicrobial peptide, offers numerous advantages over the antibiotics currently in use to treat the disease.

UCR geneticist Hailing Jin, who discovered the cure after a five-year search, he explained that unlike antibiotic sprays, the peptide is stable even when used in air free in high temperatures, easy to manufacture and safe for humans. “This peptide is found in the fruit of Australian finger limes, tolerant to green, which has been consumed for hundreds of years,” he said Jin. “It’s much safer to use this natural plant product in agricultural crops than other synthetic chemicals”. Currently, some growers in Florida are spraying antibiotics and pesticides on a attempt to save the trees from the C Las bacteria that causes the citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing or HLB.

The Asian citrus psyllid, pictured here, spreads the bacteria that cause the disease of greening of the citrus fruits. (Mike Lewis/UCR). “Most antibiotics are sensitive temperature, so its effects are greatly reduced when apply in hot weather,” Jin said. “On the contrary, this peptide is stable even when used in a heat of 130 degrees. Jin found the peptide by examining plants such as the Australian lime known to possess a natural tolerance to the bacteria that cause citrus greening, and isolated the genes that contribute to this innate immunity. One of these genes produces the peptide, which then proves for two years. The improvement was soon visible. “You can see that the bacteria was drastically reduced, and the leaves appear healthy again only a few months after treatment,” Jin said.

Because the peptide only needs to be reapplied about a few times a year, it is highly profitable for the growers. This peptide can also be developed into a vaccine like solution to protect infection to young, healthy plants, as it is able to induce innate plant immunity to the bacteria. Jin peptide can be applied by injection or foliar spray, and moves systematically through of the plants and remains stable, which makes the effect of the treatment be stronger.  The treatment is will be further enhanced by the patented injection technology made by Invaio Sciences. UC Riverside has signed an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with Invaio, ensuring that this new treatment goes exactly where needs in the plants.

“Invaio está entusiasmada por asociarse con UC Riverside y avanzar en esta innovadora tecnología para combatir la enfermedad conocida como Citrus Greening o Huanglongbing”, dijo el Director Científico de Invaio, Gerardo Ramos. “La perspectiva de abordar esta enfermedad de los cultivos, que antes era incurable y devastadora, ayudar a las comunidades agrícolas y mejorar el impacto ambiental de la producción es emocionante y gratificante”, dijo. “Se trata de la protección de los cultivos en armonía con la naturaleza”. La necesidad de una cura para el HLB es un problema mundial, pero golpea especialmente cerca de casa ya que California produce el 80 por ciento de todos los cítricos frescos de los Estados Unidos, dijo Brian Suh, director de comercialización de tecnología en la Oficina de Asociaciones Tecnológicas de la UCR, que ayuda a llevar la tecnología universitaria al mercado para el beneficio de la sociedad a través de licencias, asociaciones y empresas de nueva creación.  “Esta licencia para Invaio abre la oportunidad de que un producto llegue al mercado más rápidamente”, dijo Suh. “La investigación de vanguardia de la UCR, como el péptido identificado por el Dr. Jin, tiene un enorme potencial comercial y puede transformar la trayectoria de los problemas del mundo real con estas soluciones innovadoras”.

Fuente: UC Riverside News

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