Control of Pierce's Disease by Phage
Pierce's Disease (PD) of grapevines, caused by Xylella fastidiosa subsp. fastidiosa (Xf), is a limiting factor in the cultivation of grapevines in the US. There are presently no effective control methods to prevent or treat PD. The therapeutic and prophylactic efficacy of a phage cocktail composed of four virulent (lytic) phages was evaluated for control of PD. Xf levels in grapevines were significantly reduced in therapeutically or prophylactically treated grapevines. PD symptoms ceased to progress one week post-therapeutic treatment and symptoms were not observed in prophylactically treated grapevines. Cocktail phage levels increased in grapevines in the presence of the host. No in planta phage-resistant Xf isolates were obtained. Moreover, Xf mutants selected for phage resistance in vitro did not cause PD symptoms. Our results indicate that phages have great potential for biocontrol of PD and other economically important diseases caused by Xylella.