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Understanding the relationship between Xylella fastidiosa and the meadow spittlebug Philaenus spumarius for a sustainable bacterial-mediated diseases control

Project description

Understanding plant pathogens in olive trees

The bacterium of Xylella fastidiosa is a plant pathogen responsible for several diseases and is considered a threat to the EU olive population. However, the lack of knowledge on central elements of vector–host–bacterium intimate interaction prevents research on sustainable containment strategies. Besides, Philaenus spumarius, the vector of X. fastidiosa to olive trees in south Italy, remains unexplored. The EU-funded XYL-SPIT project will apply a multidisciplinary method to exhaustively describe the relationship between P. spumarius and X. fastidiosa and transmission dynamics. It will combine real-time tracking of insect probing behaviour, classical transmission tests and microscopy. The results will contribute to the establishment of a sustainable bacterium-mediated disease containment strategy.


Research on sustainable containment strategies of diseases caused by the vector-borne bacterium Xylella fastidiosa is hampered by the lack of knowledge on key elements of vector-host-bacterium intimate interaction. Moreover, available data on this three-way relationship come from studies carried out with sharpshooters, the main American bacterial vectors. On the other side, nothing is known on the insect family who likely plays the major role in bacterium epidemiology in Europe, i.e. spittlebugs, to which Philaenus spumarius, the main vector of X. fastidiosa to olive in South Italy, belongs to. The main objective of this project is to thoroughly characterize P. spumarius-X. fastidiosa relationship and transmission dynamics through a multidisciplinary approach, combining real-time tracking of insect probing behavior, classical transmission tests and microscopy. First, we are going to characterize the spittlebug acquisition/inoculation behaviors of the bacterium on different host plant/bacterium strain combinations. Once these behaviors have been characterized, we will determine the sites within spittlebug foregut where bacterial cells are retained suddenly after acquisition, and from where the cells are detached and delivered to the host plant during inoculation. Finally, we will focus on P. spumarius behavior on, and X. fastidiosa transmission dynamic to, olive varieties found to be tolerant to the bacterium. The results of the present project will represent an essential step toward the set-up of a sustainable bacterium-mediated diseases containment strategy. This fellowship represents a unique opportunity for the applicant. The experience gained from this three-year multidisciplinary project will make Daniele Cornara a serious candidate for an academic position throughout Europe, beside an important resource for Europe considering the threat posed by the relentless spread of X. fastidiosa throughout the Continent.


Net EU contribution
€ 245 732,16
28006 Madrid

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Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 245 732,16

Partners (1)