Virus Genes

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 195–198 | Cite as

Introduction of East African cassava mosaic Zanzibar virus to Oman harks back to “Zanzibar, the capital of Oman”

  • Akhtar J. KhanEmail author
  • Sohail Akhtar
  • Abdulrahman M. Al-Matrushi
  • Claude M. Fauquet
  • Rob. W. Briddon


Cassava mosaic disease (CMD) is the most devastating disease of the subsistence crop cassava (Manihot esculenta) across Africa and the Indian subcontinent. The disease is caused by viruses of the genus Begomovirus (family Geminiviridae)—seven species have been identified so far. The Sultanate of Oman is unusual among countries in Arabia in growing cassava on a small scale for local consumption. During a recent survey in A’Seeb wilayat of Muscat governorate, Oman, cassava plants were identified with symptoms typical of CMD. A begomovirus, East African cassava mosaic Zanzibar virus (EACMZV), was isolated from symptomatic plants. This virus was previously only known to occur in Zanzibar and Kenya. During the 19th Century, Zanzibar was governed by Oman and was so important that the Sultan of Oman moved his capital there from Muscat. After a period of colonial rule, the governing Arab elite was overthrown, following independence in the 1960s, and many expatriate Omanis returned to their homeland. Having gained a liking for the local Zanzibar cuisine, it appears that returning Omanis did not wish to do without dishes made from one particular favorite, cassava. Consequently, they carried planting material back to Oman for cultivation in their kitchen gardens. The evidence suggests that this material harbored EACMZV. Recently, Oman has been shown to be a nexus for geminiviruses and their associated satellites from diverse geographic origins. With their propensity to recombine, a major mechanism for evolution of geminiviruses, and the fact that Oman (and several other Arabian countries) is a major hub for trade and travel by air and sea, the possibility of onward spread is worrying.


Manihot esculenta Cassava East African cassava mosaic Zanzibar virus Begomovirus Oman 



This study has been supported by research Grant number ORG-EBR/09/003 from The Research Council, Oman to AJK. RWB is supported by the Higher Education Commission (Government of Pakistan) under the “Foreign Faculty Hiring Program.”


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akhtar J. Khan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sohail Akhtar
    • 1
  • Abdulrahman M. Al-Matrushi
    • 1
  • Claude M. Fauquet
    • 2
  • Rob. W. Briddon
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Crop SciencesCollege of Agricultural & Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos UniversityMuscatOman
  2. 2.International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural BiotechnologyDonald Danforth Plant Science CenterSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Agricultural Biotechnology DivisionNational Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic EngineeringFaisalabadPakistan

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