Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae or PSA is a bacteria which infects kiwifruit that was first discovered in Bay of Plenty New Zealand late in 2010. Since then it has devastated the kiwifruit industry in New Zealand with more than 1600 orchards being infected. The losses associated with this are huge with an estimated loss to the industry of $885 million. You may ask what this has to do with phage, well there is a possibility that a phage could be used to help combat this bacterial infection.
In July 2011 the kiwifruit marketing company Zespri partnered up with the US bacteriophage producer OmniLytics Incorporated in an attempt to find a phage that will infect the PSA bacteria. The discovery of a phage that could be used on kiwifruit to combat PSA and still be safe for consumption could be a savior for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.
The strain of bacteria we are working with, pseudomonas phosphorescence (SBW25), is from the same genus as the PSA bacteria. This means they are very similar both geneticly and in physical appearance. It is possible that a phage that effectively infects and kills the bacterial strain we are working with could be used to infect the PSA bacteria as well, because of their similarities but it means we are not working with and possibly transporting the PSA bacteria. In this way we have been investigating possible solutions to a very real problem in New Zealand while still learning.
Although we still do not know everything about phage and their relationship with bacteria and probably never will they are proving to be hugely in the primary industries of New Zealand.