The Xylella fastidiosa global threat – Can antimicrobial peptides help in tackling this menace?
There is an increasingly robust global campaign to ban the use of synthetic pesticides and antibiotics from agriculture and livestock management. New eco- and bio-friendly approaches to fight plant pathogens are an urgent demand, especially to tackle plant diseases that, on top of being a biohazard, also represent a serious economical burden. In this context, one of the most worrisome plant pathogens is Xylella fastidiosa, which can be transmitted by multiple vectors and affect diverse plant species. Despite ongoing efforts to tackle this menace, there is still no effective therapy against X. fastidiosa infections. Antimicrobial peptides are being investigated for such purpose, as highlighted by recent reports herein reviewed.
A GLOBAL THREAT to food SAFETY and agricultural SUSTAINABILITY
Agriculture was invented thousands of years ago, when humans started to establish agricultural ecosystems to provide a reliable food supply that could be easily stored, enabling the rise of civilizations and creation of cities. (1) Since their origin, such agro-ecosystems started to spread globally and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture occupies about 38% of Earth’s terrestrial surface. (2) Agricultural production prominently increased since the beginning of the 20th century to cope with the increasing world population and it would not have been possible without the introduction of synthetic chemicals (pesticides) to protect crops from infectious diseases. (3, 4) Although the use of pesticides has enabled to more than duplicate food production during the last century, pathogens are responsible for direct yield losses ranging between 17 and 30 % for the five major crops globally (potato, soybean, wheat, maize and rice). (5) Furthermore, microbial organisms often produce toxins, either natural or arising from metabolic d ...