Scientists say a disease destroying entire crops of cassava has spread out of East Africa into the heart of the continent, is attacking plants as far south as Angola and now threatens to move west into Nigeria, the world’s biggest producer of the potato-like root that helps feed 500 million Africans.
Photo: healthy cassava, Ed Rybicki, western Kenya, 1998
This is a really big deal – and it comes just 15 years or so after another cassava scourge, caused by a recombinant begomovirus, swept out of Uganda. That one was credited with helping to kill over 20 000 people, due to starvation and assocaited morbidity. This one – Cassava brown streak virus, or CBSV – is a filamentous ssRNA potyvirus (genus Ipomovirus, family Potyviridae), spread by whiteflies ratehr than the usual potyvirus vector (aphids).
Gerhard Pietersen and I noted in 1999 that CBSV was an emerging virus, but not a serious problem (Adv Virus Res, 53, 127-175, 1999).
It has obviously emerged, and is. Now to deal with it!
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