Diseases associated with Xylella fastidiosa
have been described mostly in North and South America. However, during the last five years, widespread X. fastidiosa
infections have been reported in a constrained area of the Apulia region (southern Italy), in olives trees suffering a severe disease, denoted as Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS). Because many xylem sap-feeding insects can function as vectors for the transmission of this exotic pathogen in EU, several research programs are ongoing to assess the role of candidate vectors in the spread of the infections. Initial investigations identified Philaenus spumarius
(L.) as the predominant vector species in the olive orchards affected by the OQDS. Additional experiments have been carried out during 2016 and 2017 to assess the role of other species. More specifically, adults of the spittlebugs Philaenus italosignus
Drosopolous and Remane, Neophilaenus campestris
(Fallen) and of the planthopper Latilica tunetana
(Matsumura) (Issidae) have been tested in transmission experiments to assess their ability to acquire the bacterium from infected olives and to infect different susceptible hosts (olives, almond, myrtle –leaf milkwort, periwinkle). Acquisition rates determined by testing individual insects in quantitative PCR assays, ranging from 5.6% in N. campestris
to 22.2% in P. italosignus
, whereas no acquisition was recorded for L. tunetana
. Successful transmissions were detected in the recipient plants exposed to P. italosignus
and N. campestris
, whereas no trasmissions occurred with L. tunetana
. The known vector Philaenus spumarius
has been included in all the experiments for validation. The systematic surveys conducted in 2016 and 2017 provided further evidence on the population dynamics and seasonal abundance of the spittlebug populations in the olive groves.
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