Wired: To Save Florida’s Oranges, Scientists Race to Weaponize a Virus

A disease known as citrus greening, spread by the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus and the psyllid as insect vector, has infected about 90 percent of Florida’s orange groves. Scientists try traditional breeding and genetic engineering methods as well as chemical and heat treatments to slow the disease's spread without luck. One citrus company “is developing something more like an arboreal vaccine, using a genetically modified virus to deliver bacteria-killing spinach proteins,” reports Megan Molteni for Wired. “Years ago, University of Florida plant pathologist Bill Dawson modified a local strain of the citrus tristeza virus so that anyone could insert new bits of DNA into its genome, turning it into a protein factory—otherwise known as a viral vector.” The vaccine targets the tissues that transport water and nutrients throughout the trees where C. liberibacter sucks on sugar and prevents the fruit from ripening. Oranges do not have to carry a GMO label because the vaccine targets the bacteria and not the tree. The company Southern Gardens Citrus has applied to test the vaccine in orange groves. If approved by the Department of Agriculture after an environmental impact assessment, the treatment could be in use by 2019. – YaleGlobal

Wired: To Save Florida’s Oranges, Scientists Race to Weaponize a Virus

Citrus greening has infected most of Florida’s orange groves, and researchers have created a vaccine-like product to target the bacteria in trees
Megan Molteni
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
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