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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

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Updated on 19/09/2016

Pinewood nematode

Anticipating future health threats

Keywords : Plant health, Pinewood Nematode

The pinewood nematode is a microscopic worm that grows at the expense of host trees, mostly pines. The larvae of this worm are transported from one conifer to another by insects that become carriers of the nematode when they develop in an infected tree. Found in Asia, where they have caused considerable damage, the pinewood nematode has now made its way to Southern Europe. The Landes area in Southwest France, in particular, is a risk area in the event of this parasite being introduced.

The pinewood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, is a microscopic worm that grows at the expense of host trees, mainly pines. The larvae of this worm are transported from one conifer to another by beetles (of the genus Monochamus spp.). These insects become carriers of the nematode when they develop in an infected tree. European pines are highly susceptible to the pinewood nematode. Native to North America, the pinewood nematode was introduced in Japan in the early 20th century, where it caused considerable damage. It then spread to Southern China, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan, and is now found in Europe; it was discovered in Portugal in 1999 and Spain in 2008 in limited focal areas, where it is being eradicated. The Landes area in Southwest France, in particularis a risk area in the event of this parasite being introduced.

The role of ANSES

To help the French government anticipate the consequences of the introduction of this pest into French territory, ANSES’s Plant Health Laboratory took part in a risk assessment of accidental introduction of the pinewood nematode in the Landes.

In addition, the Plant Health Laboratory developed and continues to expand innovative methods for detecting this nematode in its host and vector, to ensure enhanced monitoring in the country.

It also maintains an active partnership for these purposes with its Portuguese counterparts.