Plant virologist Dr Svetlana Folimonova presented her talk “Understanding cross-protection by Citrus tristeza virus: our quest for the answer to a century-old question” on 28 April as the invited guest speaker in the popular FABI International Seminar Series. Dr Folimonova is an Associate Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. Welcoming her, FABI’s Dr David Read explained that Dr. Folimonova’s research program focuses on viral and bacterial pathogens of citrus, with the main emphasis on Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) and Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus, a causal agent of citrus greening (Huanglongbing (HLB)). Her primary research effort is concentrated on understanding the mechanisms of the infection process, host responses to the pathogens, and developing management strategies for these diseases.

CTV is recognized as the most destructive viral pathogen of citrus. During the past century, CTV-induced epidemics killed more than 100 million citrus trees in North and South America and the Mediterranean, and the virus continues to threaten citrus production in many regions, including South Africa. One of the main focuses of our research is understanding the mechanism of viral cross-protection (also referred to as superinfection exclusion), a phenomenon in which a primary viral infection prevents a secondary infection with the same or closely-related virus. Her presentation summarised the work her research group is conducting to combat this devastating citrus diseases.