A scalable bioassay for culturing CLas and high-throughput screening of novel antimicrobials for HLB management
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Citrus greening or Huanglongbing (HLB) disease is devastating the citrus industry in Florida and starting to spread in Texas and California. There is an urgent need for tools that can speed screening and identification of antimicrobials by overcoming the culturing bottlenecks associated with CLas. The overall goal of the project is to implement and validate an innovative screening strategy to identify potent antimicrobials as deliverable products to manage HLB. Specifically, we will conduct in silico and in vitro screening to identify novel inhibitors targeting conserved CLas virulence proteins, as well as broad-spectrum antimicrobial peptides, utilizing state-of-the-art molecular modeling algorithms and an innovative bioassay for culturing CLas. Promising antimicrobials will be further evaluated in small-scale greenhouse and field experiments, aimed to determine the effect of the antimicrobials on CLas titers. Furthermore, we will engage and educate the stakeholders and the end-users (e.g., citrus industry, commercial and residential citrus growers, and scientific community) in Florida, Texas and California, as part of the project extension and outreach activities. The near- to intermediate-term goal is to identify an assortment of potent antimicrobials suitable for commercial deployment in the field and to provide a sustainable alternative to antibiotic/bactericide therapies currently being used to manage HLB.