Citrus huanglongbing (HLB), also known as citrus greening or citrus yellow shoot, is considered the most serious disease of citrus worldwide. The disease has Asian, African, and American forms caused by “Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus”, “Ca. L. africanus”, and “Ca. L. americanus”, respectively, which can be spread efficiently by the psyllid vectors Diaphorina citri and Trioza erytreae and through contaminated plant materials. Infected citrus groves are usually destroyed or become unproductive in 5 to 8 years. The presumed low concentration and uneven distribution of the pathogens in citrus plants and vector insects make the phloem-limited bacterium difficult to detect consistently. In this study, we compared and validated four conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based protocols, one loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) protocol, and three TaqMan real-time PCR protocols. The detection sensitivity of the validated conventional PCR assays reported are improved compared with the original protocols. All of the validated conventional and the newly developed real-time methods were reliable for confirmatory tests for the presence of “Ca. Liberibacter spp.” in symptomatic samples. There were no differences in assay specificity among the standard format PCR-based methods evaluated. The TaqMan real-time PCR was 10- to 100-fold more sensitive than conventional PCR and LAMP, showing the potential to become a valuable tool for early detection and identification of “Ca. Liberibacter spp.” prior to the appearance of disease symptoms. The methods validated in this study will be very useful for regulatory response, effective management of infected trees, and development of a “Ca. Liberibacter spp.”-free nursery system.
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