Biotech Updates

Scientists Map Genome of Fungus Causing Dutch Elm Disease

March 20, 2013

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and SickKids Research Institute have successfully mapped the genes in the fungus causing Dutch Elm Disease. Little is known about the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi, a distant relative of fungi such as bread mold and beer yeast. Alan Moses, one of the authors of the study said that, "Dutch Elm Disease is caused by a fungus that prevents the normal distribution of nutrients in the tree by blocking the flow of sap. The tree wilts and eventually dies." The findings of the team could help scientists figure out how to prevent the fungus from destroying elm trees in the future.

The disease is believed to have originated in the Himalayas, traveling to Europe from the Dutch East Indies in the late 1800s. It emerged in Holland after the First World War, where it got the name Dutch Elm Disease. It is the most destructive elm tree disease in North America, killing most trees within two years of infection, and is a problem in many parts of the world, particularly Scotland, Spain, Italy, Western Canada and New Zealand.

The news release is available at the University of Toronto's Media Room: