A mathematical model characterizes different diseases caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa

Feb. 6, 2024

  • Researchers at the Institute of Cross-disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems (IFISC, UIB-CSIC) have developed a mathematical model that characterizes the different diseases caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa.

Xylella fastidiosa, a major plant pathogenic bacterium, has emerged as a global threat to the health of numerous crops, triggering devastating diseases in a wide variety of plants in different regions of the world. This micro-organism is mainly spread by insect vectors, like Philaenus spumarius, the meadow spittlebug, in Europe, and is known to affect ornamental plant species, fruit trees and cash crops. 

Recently, its presence has been identified in several regions of Europe, including Italy, Portugal and Spain, with a particularly significant impact in Apulia, Italy, where the introduction in 2010 resulted in the massive loss of olive trees, generating important economic and ecological repercussions. In Spain, the Balearic Islands are particularly affected, with more than 80% of almond trees infected. Also vineyards in the Balearic Islands are affected and the presence of the subtype of the bacterium that has caused extensive damage to olive trees in Italy has recently been confirmed. 

New research published in Phytopathology introduces an advanced mathematical model designed to understand and manage epidemics caused by this bacterium. The model is notable for its ability to characterise the abundance patterns of vector populations observed in the field, providing a more accurate picture of the spread of the pathogen. By applying the model to real agricultural scenarios, such as olive trees in Italy and almond trees in Mallorca, the researchers demonstrate its effectiveness in determining the behaviour of these diseases and developing specific intervention strategies.  

The study takes on special relevance after the recent detection of the bacterium that could affect Mallorcan olive trees, since it could help in the prediction of the development of the disease and in the design of control strategies. An interesting aspect of the work is that it allows to delimit the time of introduction of the bacterium recently detected in Mallorca, which would be approximately 2016-18 or earlier. 

This research contributes significantly to global efforts to mitigate the impact of Xylella fastidiosa in agriculture, increasing knowledge about the factors that influence the spread of diseases caused by this bacterium.


Àlex Giménez-Romero et al., A compartmental model for Xylella fastidiosa diseases with explicit vector seasonal dynamics, Phytopathology 113, 1686-1696 (2023).
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1094/PHYTO-11-22-0428-V


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