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LMI-PATHO-BIOS “Monitoring Plant Pathogens in West Africa”

The French research institute, IRD, has developed severalInternational Joint Laboratories (LMI) in Africa and around the world. The impetus is to collaborate with local institutions to bring in national expertise and technologies and to train young African scientists on how to use them. One of the LMI laboratories, Patho-Bios, opened in 2013 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Under the “Monitoring Plant Pathogens in West Africa” project, its main goal is to study plant pathogens of important crops for the region. Rice has been chosen as primary crop for both historical reasons and because it is quite important in West Africa, home to AfricaRIce, a CGIAR Center. Subsequently, a regional project with cassava as a primary crop could be developed. Cassava is the most important food crop for West Africa, and a cassava center of excellence, developed in Kumasi, Ghana, under the WAAPP (West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program) project, already exists. The LMI and the WAAPP center could serve as key diagnostic and training centers for cassava diseases, as part of the Pan-African Surveillance Cassava Diseases Network in West Africa.


The LMI Patho-Bios has two INERA (lnstitut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles) sites in Burkina Faso: Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. It also has a regional focus with national research organizations (NARS) in the sub-region: University of Lomé in Togo; CNRA and the universities of Houphouët-Boigny and Nangui-Abrogoua in Côte d'Ivoire; the University of Technics and Technology in Bamako in Mali; the IER Institut d’Economie Rurale) in Mali; AfricaRice in Senegal, Benin, and Tanzania; CSIR-CRI in Ghana; and ITRAD (Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in Chad) in Chad. Patho-Bios, which will be associated with two other LMIs in Senegal, recently became a partner in the Plant Protection (ProVeg) network, which includes teams from the IRD Montpellier-France, CIRAD-3P, St. Pierre de La Réunion, and six countries in West Africa.

Patho-Bios is host to 30 people, including 15 researchers with a strong expertise in the following:

Before Patho-Bios was created, IRD in Montpellier and CIRAD in La Réunion, trained four young African scientists who now work at Patho-Bios: (Sérémé, 2010; Tiendrébéogo, 2010; Traore, 2005; Wonni, 2013). Patho-Bios, in collaboration with organizations involved in the Pan-African Surveillance Cassava Diseases Network in West Africa, will train more African scientists on the different topics developed in the laboratory.

Patho-Bios currently studies the biodiversity and biomonitoring of rice pathogens: Rice yellow mottle virus, bacteria (Xanthomonas oryzae pv oryzae, Xanthmonas oryzae  pv. oryzicola), and nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.) as well as resistance genes for these pathogens. Study of fungi, including Magnaporthe oryzae that infect rice, will be addressed in collaboration with CIRAD and AfricaRice. Surveys will be made on common experimental plots and will be implemented for all pathogens (Fig. 4).

Virus activities. The team will conduct a number of biodiversity studies of the major diseases of rice in West Africa: sequencing the collection of viral INERA isolates; expanding surveys to other West African countries, together with research partners in these countries and, if necessary, by offering additional training in molecular virology; characterizing the molecular and pathogenic properties of these isolates; modelling the evolution and epidemiology of these diseases in West Africa; and experimentally testing hypothesis on the pathogenesis derived from modelling.

Bacteria activities. The team will carry out an inventory and characterization of bacterial rice isolates from a collection of multiple-year campaigns, and study the evolution of populations of X. oryzae-based agro-ecosystems and environmental areas. It plans to develop and transfer molecular genotyping methods and identify major virulence genes in the identified strains and resistance gene pools.

Nematodes activities. The team will offer surveys to assess the impact of nematode attacks on rice; isolation of nematodes and morphological characterization of genera present to conduct the inventory and geographical distribution of parasitic nematodes of rice; and molecular characterization of Meloidogyne species. The team will carry out species identification and assessment of the diversity of Meloidogyne infecting rice; sequencing candidate genes of M. incognita infecting rice and assessment of variability of candidate proteins; identification of areas subject to selection; and selection of representative isolates (“core collection”).


The objectives of the “Monitoring Plant Pathogens in West Africa” project are to develop (first on rice) expertise and tools in the fields of virology, bacteriology, and nematology, and to strengthen staff training in the areas of plant pathology, molecular epidemiology, resistance breaking, and bioinformatics. The project aims to characterize and study the diversity of pathogens and monitor them in relation to global climate change. In addition, the associated regional biosafety laboratory funded by the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) will develop synergies in research and training in the field of GMO-biosecurity and bio-monitoring of pathogens. Finally, Patho-Bios plays a dynamic role in the exploration of applications in biotechnology from the knowledge acquired on pathogens (production of recombinant proteins for enzyme research, development kits, and vaccine production (Sérémé, 2010; Sérémé et al., 2008) (Fig 4). As soon as possible, we will transfer the knowledge and expertise to cassava through collaborations within the Pan-African Surveillance Cassava Network in West Africa.