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Banana Elephantiasis Disease: an emerging disease for Latin America

Flavio Aliaga: University of Buenos Aires

<div>Bananas (<em>Musa acuminata</em>) and plantains (<em>Musa balbisiana</em>) are an important food source to families and farmers dedicated to their production in the tropics and subtropics, vital to quality of life and the agricultural economy of the region. Banana Elephantiasis Disease (BED) has unknown etiology, but has been reported in Latin American countries where it causes many economic losses. BED is currently an emerging disease which reduces the commercial value of their bunches and limits their production in Colombia and Peru. BED is exhibited at the pseudostem-rhizome junction with longitudinal and transverse ruptures at the pseudostem base, causing the plant to fall down. In the districts of San Luis de Shuaro and Pichanaki of the department of Junín of Peru, this disease affects the cultivars of Seda (Group AAA), William (Group AAA), Morado (Group AAA), Isla (Group AAB) and Palillo (Group AAB). According to a survey conducted during 2015 and 2017, this disease reduces the yields of Gros Michel (Group AAA) and Dominico Hartón (Group AAB) anywhere from 9% to 71.6% in the municipalities of Ulloa and Alcala in the department of Valle del Cauca in Colombia. The random distribution of the disease observed in the field suggests the possible participation of insect vectors, secondary hosts, and the use of infected planting material. DNA was extracted from symptomatic and asymptomatic plant rhizomes by each farm to amplify the V4 region of the <em>16S</em> gene with 515F/806R primers in the HiSeq Illumina platform. Plants grown <em>in vitro</em> were used as negative controls. 12 OTUs of <em>Candidatus</em> Phytoplasma were found only in symptomatic plants. BLAST analysis showed a 99% sequence identity (MF977376-MF977387) with <em>Candidatus</em> Phytoplasma. This research demonstrates that <em>Candidatus</em> Phytoplasma is an organism associated with Banana Elephantiasis Disease.</div>