Department of Plant Pathology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824.
The emergence and spread of streptomycin-resistant strains of Erwinia amylovora in Michigan has necessitated the evaluation of new compounds effective for fire blight control. The aminoglycoside antibiotic kasugamycin (Ks) targets the bacterial ribosome and is particularly active against E. amylovora. The efficacy of Ks formulated as Kasumin 2L for control of fire blight was evaluated in six experiments conducted over four field seasons in our experimental orchards in East Lansing, MI. Blossom blight control was statistically equivalent to the industry standard streptomycin in all experiments. E. amylovora populations remained constant on apple flower stigmas pretreated with Kasumin and were ≈100-fold lower than on stigmas treated with water. Kasumin applied to apple trees in the field also resulted in a 100-fold reduced total culturable bacterial population compared with trees treated with water. We performed a prospective analysis of the potential for kasugamycin resistance (KsR) development in E. amylovora which focused on spontaneous resistance development and acquisition of a transferrable KsR gene. In replicated lab experiments, the development of spontaneous resistance in E. amylovora to Ks at 250 or 500 ppm was not observed when cells were directly plated on medium containing high concentrations of the antibiotic. However, exposure to increasing concentrations of Ks in media (initial concentration 25 μg ml–1) resulted in the selection of Ks resistance (at 150 μg ml–1) in the E. amylovora strains Ea110, Ea273, and Ea1189. Analysis of mutants indicated that they harbored mutations in the kasugamycin target ksgA gene and that all mutants were impacted in relative fitness observable through a reduced growth rate in vitro and decreased virulence in immature pear fruit. The possible occurrence of a reservoir of KsR genes in orchard environments was also examined. Culturable gram-negative bacteria were surveyed from six experimental apple orchards that had received at least one Kasumin application. In total, 401 KsR isolates (42 different species) were recovered from apple flowers and leaves and orchard soil samples. Although we have not established the presence of a transferrable KsR gene in orchard bacteria, the frequency, number of species, and presence of KsR enterobacterial species in orchard samples suggests the possible role of nontarget bacteria in the future transfer of a KsR gene to E. amylovora. Our data confirm the importance of kasugamycin as an alternate antibiotic for fire blight management and lay the groundwork for the development and incorporation of resistance management strategies.