Causal role of Xylella fastidiosa in oleander leaf scorch disease
A lethal leaf scorch disease of oleander (Nerium oleander) appeared in southern California in 1993. A bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, was detected by culturing, enzyme-linked immunoassay, and polymerase chain reaction in most symptomatic plants but not in symptomless plants or negative controls. Inoculating oleanders mechanically with X. fastidiosa cultures from diseased oleanders caused oleander leaf scorch (OLS) disease. The bacterium was reisolated from inoculated plants that became diseased. Three species of xylem sap-feeding leafhoppers transmitted the bacterium from oleander to oleander. The bacterium multiplied, moved system-ically, and caused wilting in Madagascar periwinkte (Catharanthus rosea) and leaf scorch in periwinkle (Vinca major) in a greenhouse after inoculation with needle puncture. No bacterium was reisolated from grapevine (Vitis vinifera), peach (Prunus persica), olive (Olea europaea), California blackberry (Rubus ursinus), or valley oak (Quercus lobata) mechanically inoculated with OLS strains of X. fastidiosa. A 500-bp sequence of the 16S-23S ribosomal intergenic region of oleander strains showed 99.2% identity with Pierce's disease strains, 98.4% identity with oak leaf scorch strains, and 98.6% identity with phony peach, plum leaf scald, and almond leaf scorch strains.