Box 24 Possible Harmful Toxicological Effects of a Pathogen and the Consequences

In a research project carried out by Plant Research International, Wageningen and Koppert BV, several bacteria were investigated as possible biocontrol agents for control of thrips, mites and whitefly in greenhouse crops. The bacteria were found as endophytes and some showed promising effects on these pests. Several species and strains were further tested in bio-assays and one bacterium gave good results on thrips. Mortality was 100% in only a few days on thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) in a broad range of relative humidity and temperature. Also production of this strain appeared to be easy.

Identification showed that it was a strain of Serratia marcescens, an opportunistic human pathogen. Although this pathogen was found as an endophyte, we contacted a toxicological consultant and the helpdesk of the Ctgb (Dutch Board for Authorization of Pesticides) for their opinion on this bacterium in regards to filing an application as a biopesticide. The Ctgb reported that it will not be possible to get approval for this pathogen because it is an opportunistic human pathogen and a producer of a range of toxins. Even without specific information on this strain and its mode of action, the conclusion was not to proceed with its development. Unfortunately other strains were not found with a similar virulence on these greenhouse pests and the project did not lead to the development of a new bio-insecticide due to their toxicological aspects (De Kogel and Ravensberg 2006).

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