Network analysis reveals why Xylella fastidiosa will persist in Europe
The insect vector borne bacterium Xylella fastidiosa was first detected in olive trees in Southern Italy in 2013, and identified as the main culprit behind the 'olive quick decline syndrome'. Since then, the disease has spread rapidly through Italy's main olive oil producing region. The epidemiology of the outbreak is largely unstudied, with the list of X. fastidiosa hosts and vectors in Europe likely incomplete, and the role humans play in dispersal unknown. These knowledge gaps have led to management strategies based on general assumptions that require, among others, local vector control and, in certain areas, the destruction of infected plants and healthy ones around them in an attempt to eradicate or halt the spreading pest. Here we show that, regardless of epidemiological uncertainties, the mere distribution of olive orchards in Southern Italy makes the chances of eradicating X. fastidiosa from the region extremely slim. Our results imply that Southern Italy is becoming a reservoir for X. fastidiosa. As a consequence, management strategies should keep the prevalence of X. fastidiosa in the region as low as possible, primarily through vector control, lest the pathogen, that has also been detected in southern France and the island of Mallorca (Spain), continues spreading through Italy and Europe.