Bacteriophages Isolated in China for the Control of Pectobacterium carotovorum Causing Potato Soft Rot in Kenya

  • Peter Muturi
  • Junping Yu
  • Alice Nyambura Maina
  • Samuel Kariuki
  • Francis B. Mwaura
  • Hongping WeiEmail author
Research Article


Soft rot is an economically significant disease in potato and one of the major threats to sustainable potato production. This study aimed at isolating lytic bacteriophages and evaluating methods for and the efficacy of applying phages to control potato soft rot caused by Pectobacterium carotovorum. Eleven bacteriophages isolated from soil and water samples collected in Wuhan, China, were used to infect P. carotovorum host strains isolated from potato tubers showing soft rot symptoms in Nakuru county, Kenya. The efficacy of the phages in controlling soft rot disease was evaluated by applying individual phage strains or a phage cocktail on potato slices and tubers at different time points before or after inoculation with a P. carotovorum strain. The phages could lyse 20 strains of P. carotovorum, but not Pseudomonas fluorescens control strains. Among the 11 phages, Pectobacterium phage Wc5r, interestingly showed cross-activity against Pectobacterium atrosepticum and two phage-resistant P. carotovorum strains. Potato slice assays showed that the phage concentration and timing of application are crucial factors for effective soft rot control. Phage cocktail applied at a concentration of 1 × 109 plaque-forming units per milliliter before or within an hour after bacterial inoculation on potato slices, resulted in ≥ 90% reduction of soft rot symptoms. This study provides a basis for the development and application of phages to reduce the impact of potato soft rot disease.


Pectobacterium carotovorum Potato soft rot Bacteriophages Phage resistance 



We would like to thank Pei Zhang and An-Na Du from Core Facility and Technical Support, Wuhan Institute of Virology, for their assistance in providing TEM micrographs. This study was supported financially by the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre (SAJC201605) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ZDRW-ZS-2016-4).

Author Contributions

PM, FBM and HPW came up with the concept and designed the experiments. PM, JPY and ANM did the experiments. PM and JPY analysed the data. HPW, SK and FBM guided in developing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Animal and Human Rights Statement

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the Authors

Supplementary material

12250_2019_91_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (179 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 179 kb)


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Copyright information

© Wuhan Institute of Virology, CAS 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Emerging Pathogens and Biosafety, Wuhan Institute of VirologyChinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Centre for Microbiology ResearchKenya Medical Research InstituteNairobiKenya
  4. 4.School of Biological and Life SciencesTechnical University of KenyaNairobiKenya
  5. 5.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of NairobiNairobiKenya
  6. 6.Sino-Africa Joint Research CentreNairobiKenya

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