AmebaGone offers alternative to antibiotics for organic fruit growers

AmebaGone offers alternative to antibiotics for organic fruit growers

By Hannah Lucas,

AmebaGone_logoUW-Madison spinoff AmebaGone is trying to help organic apple and pear growers by preventing the destruction of their crops.

The company, founded in 2014 by UW-Madison bacteriology professor Marcin Filutowicz, has broader goals of helping find a better alternative to human antibiotics, as diseases are becoming increasingly resistant to them. But for now, it’s starting on treating the fire blight disease in apples and pear trees, which has in recent years become a major concern to organic growers.

The disease, caused by the bacteria Erwinia amylovora, can destroy millions of dollars of crop when an outbreak occurs. And until recently, organic growers relied on antibiotic treatments to prevent fire blight — a practice banned by the federal government in 2014.

AmebaGone is currently testing a new treatment that would help those organic growers, who face the choice of losing part of their crop to the disease or forfeit their organic certification.

The company uses a natural predator of the fire blight pathogen, called Dictyostelium, or Dicty. That organism could also combat pathogens affecting potatoes, tomatoes, corn and other cash crops — and could have applications for human treatments. Read more …