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Prevalence and genetic diversity of endosymbiotic bacteria infecting cassava whiteflies in Africa

Prevalence and genetic diversity of endosymbiotic bacteria infecting cassava whiteflies in Africa

Ghosh, Saptarshi, Bouvaine, Sophie ORCID: 0000-0002-0788-3243 and Maruthi, M.N. ORCID: 0000-0002-8060-866X (2015) Prevalence and genetic diversity of endosymbiotic bacteria infecting cassava whiteflies in Africa. BMC Microbiology, 15 (1):93. pp. 1-17. ISSN 1471-2180 (Print), 1471-2180 (Online) (doi:

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Background: Cassava provides over half of the dietary requirement for more than 200 million poor in Africa. In recent years, cassava has been affected by an epidemic of a virus disease called cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) that is spreading in much of eastern and central Africa, affecting food security and the economic development of the poor. The viruses that cause CBSD are transmitted by the insect vector whitefly (Bemisia tabaci), which have increased to very high numbers in some African countries. Strains of endosymbiotic bacteria infecting whiteflies have been reported to interact specifically with different whitefly populations with varied effects on its host biology and efficiency of virus transmission. The main aim of this study was therefore to investigate the prevalence and diversity of the secondary endosymbiotic bacteria infecting cassava whiteflies with a view to better understand their role on insect population dynamics and virus disease epidemics.

Results: The genetic diversity of field-collected whitefly from Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda and Nigeria was determined by mitochondrial DNA based phylogeny and restriction fragment length polymorphism. Cassava in these countries was infected with five whitefly populations, and each one was infected with different endosymbiotic bacteria. Incidences of Arsenophonus, Rickettsia, Wolbachia and Cardinium varied amongst the populations. Wolbachia was the most predominant symbiont with infection levels varying from 21 to 97%. Infection levels of Arsenophonus varied from 17 to 64% and that of Rickettsia was 0 to 53%. Hamiltonella and Fritschea were absent in all the samples. Multiple locus sequence typing identified four different strains of Wolbachia infecting cassava whiteflies. A common strain of Wolbachia infected the whitefly population Sub-Saharan Africa 1-subgroup 1 (SSA1-SG1) and SSA1-SG2, while others were infected with different strains. Phylogeny based on 16S rDNA of Rickettsia and 23S rDNA of Arsenophonus also identified distinct strains.

Conclusions: Genetically diverse bacteria infect cassava whiteflies in Africa with varied prevalence across different host populations, which may affect their whitefly biology. Further studies are required to investigate the role of endosymbionts to better understand the whitefly population dynamics.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Genetic diversity; Endosymbiotic bacteria; Cassava whiteflies; Africa
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
S Agriculture > SB Plant culture
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 01 May 2020 09:34

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