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Bananas, Edited

Researchers have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to target a virus that is infecting bananas, New Scientist reports. It notes that the banana streak virus is not only passed from banana to banana, but stays dormant within the banana genome until the bananas become stressed when it then re-emerges, wreaking havoc on banana plantations.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture's Leena Tripathi and her colleagues, though, have used CRISPR to inactivate endogenous banana streak viruses in Gonja Manjaya, a banana grown in East and Central Africa. As they report in Communications Biology, the researchers were able to induce mutations within the integrated viruses and when they subjected the plants to stress, 75 percent of the edited plants remained asymptomatic and the other exhibited moderate symptoms.

New Scientist adds that the banana streak virus does not infect the popular, clonal Cavendish strain. However, that strain is susceptible to a fungus and other researchers are exploring whether gene editing could be used to make it resistant to the fungus.