UBC forestry professor Richard Hamelin preparing samples for analysis. Photo credit: Paul H Joseph/UBC
New method tests for harmful species like the Asian gypsy moth and sudden oak death pathogen
Asian gypsy moths feed on a wide range of important plants and trees. White pine blister rust can kill young trees in only a couple of years. But it’s not always easy to detect the presence of these destructive species just by looking at spots and bumps on a tree, or on the exterior of a cargo ship.
Now a new rapid DNA detection method developed at the University of British Columbia can identify these pests and pathogens in less than two hours, without using complicated processes or chemicals – a substantial time savings compared to the several days it currently takes to send samples to a lab for testing.
“Sometimes, a spot is just a spot,” explains forestry professor Richard Hamelin, who designed the system with collaborators from UBC, Natural Resources Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “Other times, it’s a deadly fungus or an exotic bug that has hitched a ride on a shipping container and has the potential to decimate local parks, forests and farms. So you want to know as soon as possible what you’re looking at, so that you can collect more samples to assess the extent of the invasion or begin to formulate a plan of action.”
Hamelin’s research focuses on using genomics to design better detection and monitoring methods for invasive pests and pathogens that threaten forests. For almost 25 years, he’s been looking for a fast, accurate, inexpensive DNA test that can be performed even in places, like forests, without fast Internet or steady power supply.
He may have found it. The method, demonstrated in a preview last year for forestry policymakers in Ottawa, is straightforward. Tiny samples like parts of leaves or branches, or insect parts like wings and antennae, are dropped into a tube and popped into a small, battery-powered device (the Franklin thermo cycler, made by Philadelphia-based Biomeme). The device checks to see if these DNA fragments match the genomic material of the target species and generates a signal that can be visualized on a paired smartphone.
“With this system, we can tell with nearly 100 per cent accuracy if it is a match or not, if we’re looking at a threatening invasive species or one that’s benign,” said Hamelin. “We can analyze up to nine samples from the same or different species at a time, and it’s all lightweight enough—the thermocycler weighs only 1.3 kilos—to fit into your backpack with room to spare.”
The method relies on PCR testing, the method that is currently also the gold standard for COVID-19. PCR testing effectively analyzes even tiny amounts of DNA by amplifying (through applying heating and cooling cycles) a portion of the genetic material to a level where it can be detected.
Hamelin’s research was supported by Genome Canada, Genome BC and Genome Quebec and published in PLOS One. The UBC team, including lead author Arnaud Capron, tested this approach on species such as the Asian gypsy moth, white pine blister rust and sudden oak death pathogen, which are listed among the most destructive invasive pests worldwide.
“Our forestry, agriculture and horticulture are vital industries contributing billions of dollars to Canada’s economy so it’s essential that we protect them from their enemies,” added Hamelin. “With early detection and steady surveillance, we can ensure that potential problems are nipped, so to speak, in the bud.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Tree pest control
- Officials seek new tools to combat invasive giant hornetson April 14, 2021 at 1:35 am
The pests, first detected in the U.S. in Washington state in late ... Late in the year, they identified and destroyed the first nest inside a tree in Blaine. About 200 queens were found, all with the ...
- Trees and climate changeon April 13, 2021 at 10:28 pm
That would happen by planting more trees across the country; allowing some existing stands to grow longer before they’re cut; and managing some stands more intensively with weed and pest control, ...
- Glue traps attached to trees to tackle moths are killing bats, Mammal Society warnson April 13, 2021 at 8:30 am
Government is due to consult on a ban on glue traps used to kill 'pest' wildlife because of the suffering they can cause ...
- Caterpillar – Tamworth caterpillar infestation: white cedar moth caterpillar keeps pest control companies busy | The Northern Daily Leaderon April 11, 2021 at 12:35 pm
A HAIRY little problem has wriggled its way into Tamworth backyards in epic proportions as pest control companies struggle to keep up with demand. The picky white cedar moth only eats the white cedar ...
- Have you seen this bug? Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is killing New York's treeson April 8, 2021 at 1:31 pm
The tiny insect can be fatal to Eastern hemlocks in New York without proper treatment. A tiny invasive insect is killing hemlock trees in the Adirondacks and your help is needed to spot the pest ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Tree pest control
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Portable DNA device
- Doble Simplifies Insulation System Testing of High Voltage Assets with Spark P3on April 12, 2021 at 10:30 am
Doble Engineering Company, a leader in power grid diagnostic solutions and subsidiary of ESCO Technologies Inc. , today announced the release of the Spark P3, a universal partial discharge (PD) and ...
- Oxford Nanopore: Why a London IPO make senseon April 7, 2021 at 8:16 am
Discover everything you need to know about UK biotech firm Oxford Nanopore - including its market value, IPO price and how Oxford Nanopore makes money.
- Test-kit glitch: Spartan declares insolvency, seeks fresh investment or buyeron April 6, 2021 at 2:03 pm
Less than three months after regaining Health Canada approval for its portable COVID-19 testing ... Spartan withdrew its DNA-testing device a year ago after initial test kits ordered by the ...
- Oxford trio set to make £150m with biotech businesson April 5, 2021 at 8:09 pm
It believes its DNA and RNA-tracking technology can be ... food and the environment. Its portable device - Minion - for this type of testing is the size of a smartphone and has been used in ...
- CRISPR-Chip advance streamlines genetic testing for medical diagnostics and researchon April 5, 2021 at 3:22 pm
UC Berkeley and Vilnius University demonstrated new disease-detection capabilities of a hand-held device based on CRISPR gene editing technology, a development that could lead to faster ...