Xylella fastidiosa, commonly known as the Ebola olive, is a bacterium that has already devastated many thousands of hectares of olive trees in Italy and now threatens the Iberian Peninsula.

This disease not only affects the olive tree, but also affects at least 300 more speciesAlthough this is where you feel most comfortable and also where you can cause the most damage. Among the other endangered species we find almond, cherry, acacia, grapevine or oleander. So far, it is considered harmless to humans.

So far there have been no cases in Europe, although in America, more specifically in California. It was a publication made there that helped scientists at the University of Bari to find a diagnosis of what was causing the death of thousands of olive trees, many of them centuries old in the region of Gallipoli, in southern Italy.

This area has already been lost after the appearance of the bacteria in 2013. About 280,000 hectares of dead olive trees. It is already present in Corsica, in the south of France, in the Balearic Islands and also reached the Iberian Peninsula, more specifically Alicante.

How does Xylella Fastidiosa work?

This causes the tree to die by drying it from the inside, that is, interrupting the flow of sap.

How does Ebola spread from the olive tree?

Xylella fastidiosa chicharrilla

The vehicle you use is a common insect, the chicharrilla, which feeds on the sap of many species. It is a very difficult species to control. So far no definitive solution has been found, not even fumigations. For even if the insect dies, it may have already infected the plant.

The mesh has also been used as a barrier, but it is only a temporary brake.

Is there a cure?

So far no known cure for affected trees, which will dry up over time and die.

Some options have been considered to end Ebola in the olive tree, although they have some detractors and pose new problems. On the one hand, there is the option to create transgenic olive trees that are resistant to xylella fastidiosa, and on the other inject healthy olive trees with a virus that kills the bacteria when it appears.

The current recommendation from the authorities is to destroy the infected tree and also all the surrounding plant material, within a radius of 150 meters.

What economic consequences can this have?

The economic consequences are catastrophic in areas where xylella appears. Even more so when the local economy is highly dependent on a culture. This is the case of Andalusia, in southern Spain.

If the ebola from the olive tree arrives in Andalusia, many thousands of day laborers will see their breadwinner slowly die. In some provinces, especially in JaƩn, 20% of GDP depends directly on the olive tree, and at least the same indirectly.