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- Sakthivel Ambreetha
- Ponnusamy Marimuthu
- Kalai Mathee
- Dananjeyan Balachandar
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a leading opportunistic pathogen capable of causing fatal infections in immunocompromised individuals and patients with degenerative lung diseases. Agricultural soil and plants are the vast reservoirs of this dreaded pathogen. However, there have been limited attempts to analyze the pathogenicity of P. aeruginosa strains associated with edible vegetable plants. This study aims to elucidate the virulence attributes of P. aeruginosa strains isolated from the rhizosphere and endophytic niches of cucumber, tomato, eggplant, and chili collected from agricultural fields. Virulence of the agricultural strains was compared to three previously characterized clinical isolates. Our results showed that 50% of the plant-associated strains formed significant levels of biofilm and exhibited swarming motility. Nearly 80% of these strains produced considerable levels of rhamnolipid and exhibited at least one type of lytic activity (hemolysis, proteolysis, and lipolysis). Their virulence was also assessed based on their ability to suppress the growth of plant pathogens ( Xanthomonas oryzae, Pythium aphanidermatum, Rhizoctonia solani , and Fusarium oxysporum ) and kill a select nematode ( Caenorhabditis elegans ). The plant-associated strains showed significantly higher virulence against the bacterial phytopathogen whereas the clinical strains had significantly higher antagonism against the fungal pathogens. In C. elegans slow-killing assay, the clinical strains caused 50-100% death while a maximum of 40% mortality was induced by the agricultural strains. This study demonstrates that some of the P. aeruginosa strains associated with edible plants harbor multiple virulence traits. Upon infection of humans or animals, these strains may evolve to be more pathogenic and pose a significant health hazard.