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Maize lethal necrosis and the molecular basis of variability in concentrations of the causal viruses in co-infected maize plant
Maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease is new to Africa. First report was in Kenya in 2012, since then the disease has rapidly spread to most parts of eastern and central Africa region including Tanzania, Burundi, DRC Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and similar symptoms were observed in South Sudan. Elsewhere, the disease was caused by infection of Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus (MCMV) in combination with any of the potyviruses namely; maize dwarf mosaic virus (MDMV), sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) and tritimovirus wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV). In Africa, the disease occurs due to combined infections of maize by MCMV and SCMV, leading to severe yield losses. Efforts to address the disease spread have been ongoing. Serological techniques including enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay (ELISA), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), genome-wide association (GWAS) mapping and next generation sequencing have been effectively used to detect and characterize MLN causative pathogens. Various management strategies have been adapted to control MLN including use of resistant varieties, phytosanitary measures and better cultural practices. This review looks at the current knowledge on MLN causative viruses, genetic architecture and molecular basis underlying their synergistic interactions. Lastly, some research gaps towards MLN management will be identified. The information gathered may be useful for developing strategies towards future MLN management and maize improvement in Africa.