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07 Oct 2022
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Guidelines for the reliable use of high throughput sequencing technologies to detect plant pathogens and pests

High-throughput sequencing for the diagnostic of plant pathologies and identification of pests: recommendations and challenges

Recommended by based on reviews by Denise Altenbach and David Roquis

High-throughput sequencing (HTS) has revealed an incredible diversity of microorganisms in ecosystems and is also changing the monitoring of macroorganism biodiversity (Deiner et al. 2017; Piper et al. 2019).  

The diagnostic of plant pathogens and the identification of pests is gradually integrating the use of these techniques, but there are still obstacles. Most of them are related to the reliability of these analyses, which have long been considered insufficient because of their dependence on a succession of sophisticated operations involving parameters that are sometimes difficult to adapt to complex matrices or certain diagnostic contexts. The need to validate HTS approaches is gradually being highlighted in recent work but remains poorly documented (Bester et al. 2022).

In this paper, a large community of experts presents and discusses the key steps for optimal control of HTS performance and reliability in a diagnostic context (Massart et al. 2022). It also addresses the issue of costs. The article provides recommendations that closely combine the quality control requirements commonly used in conventional diagnostics with newer or HTS-specific control elements and concepts that are not yet widely used. It discusses the value of these for the use of the various techniques currently covered by the terms "High Throughput Sequencing" in diagnostic activities. The elements presented are intended to limit false positive or false negative results but will also optimise the interpretation of contentious results close to the limits of analytical sensitivity or unexpected results, both of which appear to be frequent when using HTS.

Furthermore, the need for risk analysis, verification and validation of methods is well illustrated with numerous examples for each of the steps considered crucial to ensure reliable use of HTS. The clear contextualisation of the proposals made by the authors complements and clarifies the need for user expertise according to the experimental objectives. Some unanswered questions that will require further development and validation are also presented.

This article should benefit a large audience including researchers with some level of expertise in HTS but unfamiliar with the recent concepts of controls common in the diagnostic world as well as scientists with strong diagnostic expertise but less at ease with the numerous and complex procedures associated with HTS.


Bester R, Steyn C, Breytenbach JHJ, de Bruyn R, Cook G, Maree HJ (2022) Reproducibility and Sensitivity of High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS)-Based Detection of Citrus Tristeza Virus and Three Citrus Viroids. Plants, 11, 1939.

Deiner K, Bik HM, Mächler E, Seymour M, Lacoursière-Roussel A, Altermatt F, Creer S, Bista I, Lodge DM, de Vere N, Pfrender ME, Bernatchez L (2017) Environmental DNA metabarcoding: Transforming how we survey animal and plant communities. Molecular Ecology, 26, 5872–5895.

Massart, S et al. (2022) Guidelines for the reliable use of high throughput sequencing technologies to detect plant pathogens and pests. Zenodo, 6637519, ver. 3  peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Infections.

Piper AM, Batovska J, Cogan NOI, Weiss J, Cunningham JP, Rodoni BC, Blacket MJ (2019) Prospects and challenges of implementing DNA metabarcoding for high-throughput insect surveillance. GigaScience, 8, giz092.

Guidelines for the reliable use of high throughput sequencing technologies to detect plant pathogens and pestsS. Massart, I. Adams, M. Al Rwahnih, S. Baeyen, G. J. Bilodeau, A. G. Blouin, N. Boonham, T. Candresse, A. Chandelier, K. De Jonghe, A. Fox, Y.Z.A. Gaafar, P. Gentit, A. Haegeman, W. Ho, O. Hurtado-Gonzales, W. Jonkers, J. Kreuze, D. Kutjnak, B. B...<p style="text-align: justify;">High-throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies have the potential to become one of the most significant advances in molecular diagnostics. Their use by researchers to detect and characterize plant pathogens and pests...Diagnosis, Pest management, Phytopathology, Plant diseasesOlivier Schumpp2022-06-13 11:26:18 View
28 Sep 2023
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Influence of endosymbionts on the reproductive fitness of the tick Ornithodoros moubata

The cost of endosymbionts on the reproductive fitness of the soft tick Ornithodoros moubata

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Luciana Raggi Hoyos and Tuomas Aivelo

Ticks are amongst the most important pathogen vectors in medical and veterinary clinical settings worldwide (Dantas-Torres et al., 2012). Like other holobionts, ticks live in association with a diverse microbiota. It includes tick-borne pathogens (TBP) and other microorganisms that have a beneficial or detrimental effect on the physiology of the host and can also affect the transmission of TBP to animals or humans. In this microbiota, primary endosymbionts, which are obligatory and inheritable, play a role in tick reproduction, the host defense and adaptation to varying environmental conditions (Duron et al., 2018). However, the effect of the microbiota structure and of the endosymbionts on tick fitness and reproduction is not well known. The soft tick Ornithodoros moubata, a parasite known to transmit African swine fever virus (Vial, 2009), is known to host Francisella-like and Rickettsia endosymbionts (Duron et al., 2018). These endosymbionts carry genes involved in B vitamin synthesis which may be supplemented to the host (Bonnet & Pollet, 2021). 

Here, the authors investigated the role of endosymbionts on the reproductive fitness of Ornithodoros moubata by conducting two experiments (Taraveau et al., 2023). First, they tested the effect of antibiotic treatment of 366 first-stage nymphs on the main endosymbionts Francisella-like and Rickettsia, and measured the endosymbionts presence overtime by qPCR. Second, they surveyed the effect of antibiotic treatment with or without the addition of B vitamins on the survival and reproductive fitness of 132 females over 50 days. This second experiment intended to identify whether the endosymbionts have an effect on the host reproduction or on its nutrition. The supplementation of B vitamin did not have a drastic effect on tick fitness or reproductive traits. However, antibiotic treatments reduced the presence of endosymbionts while increasing tick survival, suggesting a potential cost of hosting endosymbionts on the tick fitness.

The authors did a lot of work to thoroughly follow the propositions from Dr Raggi, Dr Aivelo and myself to reconstruct and to revise the manuscript. I believe that the manuscript now reads very well and the answers to the reviews also add some value to the manuscript. As Dr Aivelo pointed out, “this study follows the traditional path of so-called population perturbation studies, where ecologists have administered antibiotics or antihelminths to different animals and seen how the community changes and what effects this has on the host fitness and survival”. As both reviewers stated, results from this study are valuable and provide important basic knowledge that will likely help conduct future experiments on tick microbiota. This recommendation is the result of the thorough reviewing work of Dr Aivelo and Dr Raggi which I warmly thank.

Bonnet, S. I., & Pollet, T. (2021). Update on the intricate tango between tick microbiomes and tick‐borne pathogens. Parasite Immunology, 43(5), e12813.

Dantas-Torres, F., Chomel, B. B., & Otranto, D. (2012). Ticks and tick-borne diseases: A One Health perspective. Trends in Parasitology, 28(10), 437–446.

Duron, O., Morel, O., Noël, V., Buysse, M., Binetruy, F., Lancelot, R., Loire, E., Ménard, C., Bouchez, O., Vavre, F., & Vial, L. (2018). Tick-Bacteria Mutualism Depends on B Vitamin Synthesis Pathways. Current Biology, 28(12), 1896-1902.e5.

Taraveau, F., Pollet, T., Duhayon, M., Gardès, L., & Jourdan-Pineau, H. (2023). Influence of endosymbionts on the reproductive fitness of the tick Ornithodoros moubata. bioRxiv, ver.3, peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Infections.

Vial, L. (2009). Biological and ecological characteristics of soft ticks (Ixodida: Argasidae) and their impact for predicting tick and associated disease distribution. Parasite, 16(3), 191–202.

Influence of endosymbionts on the reproductive fitness of the tick *Ornithodoros moubata*Taraveau Florian, Pollet Thomas, Duhayon Maxime, Gardès Laëtitia, Jourdan-Pineau Hélène<p style="text-align: justify;">Over the past decade, many studies have demonstrated the crucial role of the tick microbiome in tick biology. The soft tick <em>Ornithodoros moubata</em> is a hematophagous ectoparasite of <em>Suidae</em>, best know...Mutualistic symbionts, Parasites, Pathogenic/Symbiotic Bacteria, Physiology of hosts, infectious agents, or vectors, VectorsAngélique Gobet2023-05-25 19:00:33 View
14 Nov 2022
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Ehrlichia ruminantium uses its transmembrane protein Ape to adhere to host bovine aortic endothelial cells

Adhesion process of Ehrlichia ruminantium to its host cell: the role of the protein ERGACDS01230 elucidated

Recommended by based on reviews by Rodolfo García-Contreras and Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz

As recently reported by the world organisation for animal health, 60% of infectious diseases are zoonotic with a significant part associated to ticks. Ticks can transmit various pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. Among pathogens known to be transmitted by ticks, Ehrlichia ruminantium is an obligate intracellular Gram-negative bacterium responsible for the fatal heartwater disease of domestic and wild ruminants (Allsopp, 2010). E. ruminantium is transmitted by ticks of the genus Amblyomma in the tropical and sub-Saharan areas, as well as in the Caribbean islands. It constitutes a major threat for the American livestock industries since a suitable tick vector is already present in the American mainland and potential introduction of infected A. variegatum through migratory birds or uncontrolled movement of animals from Caribbean could occur (i.e. Deem, 1998 ; Kasari et al 2010). The disease is also a major obstacle to the introduction of animals from heartwater-free to heartwater-infected areas into sub-Saharan Africa and thus restrains breeding programs aiming at upgrading local stocks (Allsopp, 2010).

In this context, it is essential to develop control strategies against heartwater, as developing effective vaccines, for instance. Such an objective requires a better understanding of the early interaction of E. ruminantium and its host cells and of the mechanisms associated with bacterial adhesion to the host-cell. In this study, the authors. studied the role of E. ruminantium membrane protein ERGA_CDS_01230 in the adhesion process to host bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAEC).

After successfully producing the recombinant version of the protein, Pinarello et al (2022) followed the in vitro culture of E. ruminantium in BAEC and observed that the expression of the protein peaked at the extracellular infectious elementary body stages. This result would suggest the likely involvement of the protein in the early interaction of E. ruminantium with its host cells. The authors then showed using flow cytometry, and scanning electron microscopy, that beads coated with the recombinant protein adhered to BAEC. In addition, they also observed that the adhesion protein of E. ruminantium interacted with proteins of the cell's lysate, membrane and organelle fractions. Additionally, enzymatic treatment, degrading dermatan and chondroitin sulfates on the surface of BAEC, was associated with a 50% reduction in the number of bacteria in the host cell after a development cycle, indicating that glycosaminoglycans might play a role in the adhesion of E. ruminantium to the host-cell. Finally, the authors observed that the adhesion protein of E. ruminantium induced a humoral response in vaccinated animals, making this protein a possible vaccine candidate.

As rightly pointed out by both reviewers, the results of this study represent a significant advance (i) in the understanding of the role of the E. ruminantium membrane protein ERGA_CDS_01230 in the adhesion process to the host-cell and (ii) in the development of new control strategies against heartwater as this protein might potentially be used as an immunogen for the development of future vaccines.


Allsopp, B.A. (2010). Natural history of Ehrlichia ruminantium. Vet Parasitol 167, 123-135.

Deem, S.L. (1998). A review of heartwater and the threat of introduction of Cowdria ruminantium and Amblyomma spp. ticks to the American mainland. J Zoo Wildl Med 29, 109-113.

Kasari, T.R. et al (2010). Recognition of the threat of Ehrlichia ruminantium infection in domestic and wild ruminants in the continental United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 237:520-30.

Pinarello V, Bencurova E, Marcelino I, Gros O, Puech C, Bhide M, Vachiery N, Meyer DF (2022) Ehrlichia ruminantium uses its transmembrane protein Ape to adhere to host bovine aortic endothelial cells. bioRxiv, 2021.06.15.447525, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Infections.

*Ehrlichia ruminantium* uses its transmembrane protein Ape to adhere to host bovine aortic endothelial cellsValérie Pinarello, Elena Bencurova, Isabel Marcelino, Olivier Gros, Carinne Puech, Mangesh Bhide, Nathalie Vachiery, Damien F. Meyer<p><em>Ehrlichia ruminantium</em> is an obligate intracellular bacterium, transmitted by ticks of the genus <em>Amblyomma</em> and responsible for heartwater, a disease of domestic and wild ruminants. High genetic diversity of <em>E. ruminantium</...Interactions between hosts and infectious agents/vectors, Microbiology of infectionsThomas Pollet Rodolfo García-Contreras, Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz2021-10-14 16:54:54 View
03 Nov 2023
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Longitudinal Survey of Astrovirus infection in different bat species in Zimbabwe: Evidence of high genetic Astrovirus diversity

High diversity and evidence for inter-species transmission in astroviruses surveyed from bats in Zibabwae

Recommended by based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers

Most infectious diseases of humans are zoonoses, and many of these come from particularly species diverse reservoir taxa, such as bats, birds, and rodents (1). Because of our changing landscape, there is increased exposure of humans to wildlife diseases reservoirs, yet we have little basic information about prevalence, hotspots, and transmission factors of most zoonotic pathogens. Viruses are particularly worrisome as a public health risk due to their fast mutation rates and well-known cross-species transmission abilities. There is a global push to better survey wildlife for viruses (2), but these studies are difficult, and the problem is vast. Astroviruses (AstVs) comprise a diverse family of ssRNA viruses known from mammals and birds. Astroviruses can cause gastroenteritis in humans and are more common in elderly and young children, but the relationship of human to non-human Astroviridae as well as transmission routes are unclear.  AstVs have been detected at high prevalence in bats in multiple studies (3,4), but it is unclear what factors, such as co-infecting viruses and bat reproductive phenology, influence viral shedding and prevalence.
In this recommended study, Vimbiso et al. (5) study the prevalence and diversity of astroviruses in different insectivorous and frugivorous chiropteran species roosting in trees, caves and building basements across Zimbabwe, a region never investigated for astroviruses. Using both pooled population samples and individual samples from 11 different sites, the authors screened for astrovirus prevalence via RT-PCR and identified bat taxa using mitochondrial gene sequencing. An overall prevalence of 10-14% infection was recorded. No clear association of increased astrovirus and coronavirus coinfection was detected, and although astrovirus infection varied over the season, it did not do so in consistent ways across the two primary sampling sites, Magweto and Chirundu. A phylogeny generated by sequencing all of the astrovirus positive samples showed evidence that most of the viral lineages are transmitting within species but across Zibabwae such that most phylogenetic lineages grouped viruses from the same host species together. However, there was ample evidence for interspecies transmission between bats. Finally, a small percentage of the total astrovirus diversity from Zibabwae clustered with sequences from humans. The timing and direction of the transmission between humans and bats need further investigation.
This study provides important baseline data about viral diversity and does an excellent job of capturing the spatial, temporal, host species, and sequence level dynamics of the astroviruses. There are clear limitations on how this study can be interpreted due to different sampling regimes and, in particular, the fact that each of the two primary sites was only explored for temporal variation over a single calendar year. That said, the grand diversity of astroviruses demonstrated in insectivorous bats in Zibabwae shows that we are only seeing the very tip of the iceberg with respect to viral diversity with zoonotic potential. As suggested by the reviewers, more studies like this are needed to understand the basic ecology of viruses and to aid in predicting epidemics.


1. Mollentze N, Streicker DG. Viral zoonotic risk is homogenous among taxonomic orders of mammalian and avian reservoir hosts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2020 Apr 28;117(17):9423-30.
2. Carroll D, Daszak P, Wolfe ND, Gao GF, Morel CM, Morzaria S, et al. The Global Virome Project. Science. 2018 Feb 23;359(6378):872-4.
3. Lee SY, Son KD, Yong-Sik K, Wang SJ, Kim YK, Jheong WH, et al. Genetic diversity and phylogenetic analysis of newly discovered bat astroviruses in Korea. Arch Virol. 2018;163(11):3065-72.
4. Seltmann A, Corman VM, Rasche A, Drosten C, Czirják GÁ, Bernard H, et al. Seasonal Fluctuations of Astrovirus, But Not Coronavirus Shedding in Bats Inhabiting Human-Modified Tropical Forests. EcoHealth. 2017 Jun 1;14(2):272-84.
5. Vimbiso C, Hélène DN, Malika A, Getrude M, Valérie P, Ngoni C, et al. Longitudinal Survey of Astrovirus infection in different bat species in Zimbabwe: Evidence of high genetic Astrovirus diversity. bioRxiv, 2023.04.14.536987, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community In Infections.

Longitudinal Survey of Astrovirus infection in different bat species in Zimbabwe: Evidence of high genetic Astrovirus diversityVimbiso Chidoti, Helene De Nys, Malika Abdi, Getrudre Mashura, Valerie Pinarello, Ngoni Chiweshe, Gift Matope, Laure Guerrini, Davies Pfulenyi, Julien Cappelle, Ellen Mwandiringana, Dorothee Misse, Gori Elizabeth, Mathieu Bourgarel, Florian Liegeois<p>Astroviruses (AstVs) have been discovered in over 80 animal species including diverse bat species and avian species. A study on Astrovirus circulation and diversity in different insectivorous and frugivorous chiropteran species roosting in tree...Animal diseases, Epidemiology, Molecular genetics of hosts, infectious agents, or vectors, Reservoirs, Viruses, ZoonosesTim James2023-04-18 14:58:43 View