Knowledge for a sustainable world

The role of vector competence in the transmission of Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus

Cacao is a major economic crop in West Africa, with many small hold farmers relying on it as a source of income. One challenge they have faced has been the emergence of Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus since 1936. Since then it has spread greatly within the region, and the areas most severely affected have yield losses over 50%. The primary management strategy has been the removal of symptomatic trees. However, this strategy is not sufficient as trees become infectious before they show symptoms, allowing the virus to spread to neighbouring trees via mealybugs. Techniques in molecular biology such as qPCR could prove vital for earlier detection of the virus. They could also be applied to quickly identify viral strain, which can be important for severity prediction. Alternatively, understanding how the volatile profile of cacao plants changes upon infection could also lead to not only early detection strategies, but also approaches to prevent outbreaks in the first place such as mealybug traps.

Primary Supervisor: Mandela Fernandez-Grandon
Secondary Supervisor(s): Goncalo D R Silva, Sophie Bouvaine

Cormac Creagh joined the University of Greenwich as a full-time PhD student in September 2020 through LIDO. He previously studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, where he received his BA as well as his MSci specialising in Biochemistry. His BA included a research project using phage display to develop DARPins against the cancer-associated protein Gremlin-1, while his MSci research project involved structural characterisation of complex dietary fibres. He also took a summer research position investigating the use of fructose by human macrophages at Trinity College Dublin during this time. His current research involves plant virology, chemical ecology, and pest behaviour in the context of cacao swollen shoot virus.

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