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Jack of all strains, master of none? Host range and efficacy in phages of a phytopathogenic bacterium


April 13, 4PM CEST

Clara Torres-Barceló Profile Image

Clara Torres-Barceló

Plant Pathology Unit, INRAE, Avignon, France

I am a researcher working at INRAE (National Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Research) at the Plant Pathology Research Unit in Avignon (France) since 2019. By bringing evolutionary biology, community ecology and molecular microbiology together, I aspire to unveil the role of phages for plant bacterial pathogens and to advance their development as therapeutic agents in agriculture.

I currently work with phages of 3 bacteria:

  • Pseudomonas syringae: ubiquitous plant pathogen, damaging a large variety of crops including fruit and nut trees, vegetables and ornamentals.

  • Erwinia amylovora: responsible of fire blight, increasingly affecting apple and pear orchards.

  • Ralstonia solanacearum: produces bacterial wilt, a world-wide disease specially problematic in tropical areas.

Previous research:

I did my PhD in València (Spain) in the group of Santiago F. Elena at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Plant Biology, using plant viruses as a model to address evolutionary questions. I studied molecular compensatory evolution of the plant virus TEV (Tobacco etch virus).

From the end of 2010 till 2013 I was a postdoctoral fellow with Angus Buckling and Craig MacLean at the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford (UK). I studied the evolutionary aspects of stress responses in the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa in the presence of antibiotics.

During my second postdoc at the ISEM (Institute of Evolutionary Sciences of Montpellier, France) from 2013 to 2015, my research project aimed to assess the combined effect of phages and antibiotics for bacterial density control and the evolution of resistance. I used the bacterial pathogen P. aeruginosa, and a panel of antibiotics and infective phages as the experimental system.

In 2018 I did a short project in Reunion and Mauritius Islands (Indian Ocean) at the PVBMT institute (CIRAD-University of Reunion-INRAE), on phages as biocontrol tools of R. solanacearum.