Estimating Xylella fastidiosa transmission parameters: decoupling sharpshooter number and feeding period
Compared to human- and wildlife-transmitted pathogens, less emphasis has been placed on developing models of plant pathogen transmission by insects. Here, we describe the transmission ecology of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa Wells et al., the causal agent of Pierce's disease in grapevines, by its leafhopper vectors. First, we performed a meta-analysis of transmission studies of X. fastidiosa by its two most important vectors in the Western USA, the invasive glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis Germar, and the native blue-green sharpshooter, Graphocephala atropunctata Signoret (both Hemiptera: Cicadellidae). The importance of vector number, pathogen acquisition period, and inoculation access period (IAP) for transmission differed between the two species. We fit these transmission datasets to two biologically derived transmission models, i.e., a binomial and a Poisson probability model. The Poisson model provided substantially better fit and produced estimates of H. vitripennis transmission efficiency that were dramatically lower than for G. atropunctata. We also conducted a separate pair of experiments that decoupled vector number from IAP. These experiments supported the results of the meta-analysis. Interestingly, high vector loads not only increased transmission rate, but also shortened X. fastidiosa incubation period in grapevines. This work provides quantitative estimates of transmission of an economically important pathogen that is analogous to risk models for arthropod-vectored human and wildlife diseases. In addition, this work suggests that heterogeneous vector loads may accelerate the disease cycle, increasing the potential for secondary spread in vineyards.