Dipartimento di Agraria

Università degli Studi di Sassari

Fondazione di Sardegna - INSECT MICROBIOME RESOURCES (2021 - 2023)

Fondazione di Sardegna – Insect Microbiome Resources. 01/07/2021 – 01/07/2023


Invertebrates, like all other living organisms, live in a world characterized by the presence of numerous microbes with which they interact within ecosystems. While the majority of such interactions are insignificant or of unknown significance, some may be beneficial or, on the contrary, harmful to specific insects. In this ways, certain microorganisms have evolved as beneficial and other as pathogens, developing intimate relationship at the molecular level. The pathogenic potential is related to different mechanisms leading to invading the host, overcoming its immune responses, and infecting or killing it. These biological properties have been exploited to use specific entomopathogenic microorganisms as biological control agents, with special regard to bacteria, fungi and insect parasitic nematodes. However, many microbials are not cultivable or have still not been discovered, which promotes research in this field, to unveil a still undetected potential.

The pesticidal action of living microbials is related to a strict and co-evolved relationship with their hosts, and often depending on a very specific mode of action. On this base, such microorganisms are regarded as safe for the environment and human health. However, this is not the case for any microorganism, given that possible side effects are always to be considered and predicted. It therefore becomes a priority to develop efficient risk assessment systems of newly proposed microbial based products.

Another related field of research is represented by microbial species that have co-evolved with their hosts developing unique and specific relationships that benefit the host, like the core bacterial community residing in the honeybee gut. These microorganisms are being found to be directly or indirectly involved in maintaining a good health status, compensating the deleterious effects deriving from the action of stress factors like insect pathogens and parasites. While the mechanisms of action of these beneficial bacteria have only partly been explained, studies on the honeybee microbiome employing modern “omic” technologies are revealing many useful aspects of the interaction between microorganisms and their molecules in the bee ecosystem, leaving a glimpse of their future usefulness.

For these reasons, the general objective of this project is to develop further knowledge on the relationships between microorganisms and insects in order to study the potential of new microbial strains and their metabolites to act against insect pests or, on the contrary, to improve health of beneficial insects. In summary, the main scientific objectives are:

-To improve knowledge on the relationship between insects and microorganisms;

-To study and characterize the insecticidal activity of some microbial strains active against pests;

-To evaluate the potential of some honeybee-related microbials to protect and enhance honeybee health.

The project structure involves the following five work packages (WP):

-              Microbial selection and collection (WP1)

-              Bioinsecticidal range and potential (WP2)

-              Characterization and mode of action (WP3)

-              Risk assessment (WP4)

-              Beneficial microbes (WP5)


Coordinatore del progetto: Prof. Luca Ruiu, UNISS – Dipartimento di Agraria)

Responsabile scientifico: Prof. Luca Ruiu (lucaruiu@uniss.it), – UNISS, Dipartimento di Agraria


Coordinamento Internazionale: Dipartimento di AGRARIA – Università degli Studi di Sassari