The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Natural Environment finances 22,000 euros a pioneering research of the University of Valencia and the CSIC that uses bacterial viruses against the ‘Xylella fastidiosa’ in the Balearic Islands.

Sep 8, 2023 | Current affairs, Featured, Revista Lloseta, Thursday Daily Bulletin, Tradition

“We implement customized solutions based on phages, which are going to eliminate the target bacteria in a specific way, maintaining the microbiota of the organism to be treated, whether it is a plant, an animal, or even patients,” explains Pilar Domingo-Calap, scientific director of Evolving Therapeutics and leader of the Environmental and Biomedical Virology research group at I2SysBio. This company is part of AgrotecUV, an initiative of the UV Science Park that features high-tech firms in agriculture that operate through public-private collaboration.

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The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Natural Environment

The treatment of crop plants in Mallorca, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Natural Environment, has been supported by previous work of I2SysBio and the Valencian Institute of Agricultural Research (IVIA) and aims to attack Xylella fastidiosa, one of the most deadly bacteria in the Mediterranean basin and against which there is no treatment. This pest, which is already endemic in Mallorca, mainly affects almond trees, olive trees and vines, and is one of the main quarantine pathogens in the European Union, and farmers have to eliminate the affected plants.

“It is an opportunity for us to be pioneers in the field, the preliminary results make us strongly support this project. Until next year when the vines grow new leaves we will not see if the treatment has worked, but we are doing a temporary monitoring to see its effectiveness,” explains Francesc Adrover, plant health technician of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Natural Environment.

“This study is essential in order to move towards sustainable and biologically safe treatments,” says Marta Lopez, head of the plant health section of the Conselleria. “Although the results are validated in the long term, it is a step forward in the fight against bacteria with new biological treatments, ecologically safe, and that will surely give much to talk about in the near future,” she said.

This project began as a basic science study to isolate phages capable of killing Xylella and to understand their potential use in plants. New phages isolated in Pilar Domingo-Calap’s research group, in collaboration with Ester Marco-Noales’ group (IVIA), were the germ.

Evolving Therapeutics SL, founded by Pilar Domingo-Calap and Marisa Domingo-Calap with the support of the Respiralia Foundation, a Balearic non-profit organization for the support of people with cystic fibrosis, offers preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic solutions against bacteria in an effective and environmentally safe way. Precisely, resistant bacteria in Spain already cause three times more mortality than traffic accidents and require new control strategies. Phage therapy, increasingly known for its promising results, can also be used as biocontrol in animal and plant health.