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Keywords:

  • Banana bunchy top virus;
  • emerging disease;
  • invasive species;
  • Nanoviridae;
  • vector

Abstract

Emerging diseases are increasing in incidence; therefore, understanding how pathogens are introduced into new regions and cause epidemics is of importance for the development of strategies that may hinder their spread. We used molecular data to study how a vector-borne banana virus, Banana bunchy top virus (BBTV), spread in Hawaii after it was first detected in 1989. Our analyses suggest that BBTV was introduced once into Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. All other islands were infected with isolates originating from Oahu, suggesting that movement of contaminated plant material was the main driving factor responsible for interisland spread of BBTV. The rate of mutation inferred by the phylogenetic analysis (1.4 × 10−4 bp/year) was similar to that obtained in an experimental evolution study under greenhouse conditions (3.9 × 10−4 bp/year). We used these values to estimate the number of infections occurring under field conditions per year. Our results suggest that strict and enforced regulations limiting the movement of banana plant material among Hawaiian islands could have reduced interisland spread of this pathogen.