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Plant viruses in aqueous environment - Survival, water mediated transmission and detection

N. Mehle, M. Ravnikar

Water research 46 (2012) 4902 - 4917

The presence of plant viruses outside their plant host or insect vectors has not been studied intensively. This is due, in part, to the lack of effective detection methods that would enable their detection in difficult matrixes and in low titres, and support the search for unknown viruses. Recently, new and sensitive methods for detecting viruses have resulted in a deeper insight into plant virus movement through, and transmission between, plants. In this review, we have focused on plant viruses found in environmental waters and their detection. Infectious plant pathogenic viruses from at least 7 different genera have been found in aqueous environment. The majority of the plant pathogenic viruses so far recovered from environmental waters are very stable, they can infect plants via the roots without the aid of a vector and often have a wide host range. The release of such viruses from plants can lead to their dissemination in streams, lakes, and rivers, thereby ensuring the long-distance spread of viruses that otherwise, under natural conditions, would remain restricted to limited areas.

The possible sources and survival of plant viruses in waters are therefore discussed. Due to the widespread use of hydroponic systems and intensive irrigation in horticulture, the review is focused on the possibility and importance of spreading viral infection by water, together with measures for preventing the spread of viruses. The development of new methods for detecting multiple plant viruses at the same time, like microarrays or new generation sequencing, will facilitate the monitoring of environmental waters and waters used for irrigation and in hydroponic systems. It is reasonable to expect that the list of plant viruses found in waters will thereby be expanded considerably. This will emphasize the need for further studies to determine the biological significance of water-mediated transport.

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