The cassava plant, also known as manioc, tapioca, and yuca could be facing the worst threat of disease in its history. A virus called brown streak is spreading at an astronomical rate and could threaten millions of East African lives as it destroys the crop. After rice and wheat, cassava is the world´s third most source of calories. The virus has been around for over 20 years, but it was not until 2004 that a mutant form of the virus appeared in central Africa. Two years ago, scientists and researchers began to become increasingly alarmed by the rate of the spread of the virus. The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation also realized this and donated $27 million dollars towards research on the virus. If a solution is not found and the virus continues its exponential spreading and growth, it could cause a famine not known since the Irish potato famine of the 1840´s. The plant is in part so popular because of its extreme durability in droughts and general farming neglect. However, it is no match for the virus.
Scientists are extremely worried about the cuttings that farmers sell to one another that may help to cause the spread of the virus. At the best of the worst case scenarios, scientists hope to contain the virus in Africa and prevent it from spreading to Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia, and-or China. However, this scenario would still cause donors to have to pour billions of dollars in aid to help feed the starving continent and prevent potential deadly civil wars. Research is continuing to find a cure or resistant strain to the virus, but until that happens we can only wait and see.