Metagenomics Approaches for the Detection and Surveillance of Emerging and Recurrent Plant Pathogens
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Globalization has a dramatic effect on the trade and movement of seeds, fruits and vegetables, with a corresponding increase in economic losses caused by the introduction of transboundary plant pathogens. Current diagnostic techniques provide a useful and precise tool to enact surveillance protocols regarding specific organisms, but this approach is strictly targeted, while metabarcoding and shotgun metagenomics could be used to simultaneously detect all known pathogens and potentially new ones. This review aims to present the current status of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) diagnostics of fungal and bacterial plant pathogens, discuss the challenges that need to be addressed, and provide direction for the development of methods for the detection of a restricted number of related taxa (specific surveillance) or all of the microorganisms present in a sample (general surveillance). HTS techniques, particularly metabarcoding, could be useful for the surveillance of soilborne, seedborne and airborne pathogens, as well as for identifying new pathogens and determining the origin of outbreaks. Metabarcoding and shotgun metagenomics still suffer from low precision, but this issue can be limited by carefully choosing primers and bioinformatic algorithms. Advances in bioinformatics will greatly accelerate the use of metagenomics to address critical aspects related to the detection and surveillance of plant pathogens in plant material and foodstuffs.