Partners: Neil Boonham (Fera), Kennedy (Worcester), Tracey (Hertfordshire)
We are working towards the development of two approaches to evaluating the airborne movement of pathogens. Both methods have generic applicability for the detection and identification of biological material moving in the air by detecting the pathogen DNA although in this project we are focusing only on fungal pathogens spread by spores. The first method uses a technique known as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) a method developed to speed up the sequencing of the human genome, ultimately with the aim of generating a genome for 1000USD. We can exploit this method to identify spores being trapped in existing trapping systems such as those used to monitor pollen and air quality, rather than needing to set up a specific network of traps for quarantine plant pathogens. The aim of this work is to provide information on what pathogens are moving around in the air at any given time to provide early warning of new pathogens that have yet been detected in the UK such that control measures can be taken early. The technique is not targeted and the use of NGS enables us to look for what pathogens are present, rather than looking for a specific target pathogen. The second part of the work is to develop a prototype device that will enable automated and standalone operation in the field. The device will trap spores, perform a sensitive DNA based test on trap contents and wirelessly transfer the data to a database. The prototype device will be based on a sensitive DNA detection method called Loop mediated isothermal AMPlification which means that it can be used to target any pathogen, providing data more quickly and at a lower cost than a manual trapping network.