UNESCO Uses ZyGEM PDQeX to Study Pathogens Affecting the Safety of Food, Water and Crops

(from left) Dr. Richard Winkworth, Briana Nelson and Professor Peter Lockhart at Massey Institute of Fundamental Sciences with the ZyGEM PDQeX. Credit Massey University.

The University Twinning and Networking Programme (UNITWIN) of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has announced a collaboration to study pathogens that affect people, livestock and agriculture in the Pacific Small Island region. Working with Massey University of New Zealand, the partnership is using the ZyGEM PDQeX, along with the Diagenetix BioRanger LAMP, to detect and quantify pathogens in food, water, humans, animals and crops in the Pacific Islands. The goal is to quickly respond to biological hazards that may affect the safety of food, water and crops and, ultimately, to protect the livelihoods of communities and promote better health and economic prosperity.

Professor Peter Lockhart, a biologist from the Institute of Fundamental Sciences at Massey, is using the PDQeX for on-the-spot DNA testing of pathogens on a range of species such as kauri trees and shellfish. Leveraging the device’s small size, low cost and time savings, Prof. Lockhart and his colleagues are developing a DNA diagnostic for Phytophthora, a fungal-like organism affecting kauri forests and crops such as taro, avocado and cocoa.

The ZyGEM PDQeX DNA extraction device and the Diagenetix BioRanger LAMP device. Credit Massey University.

The team expects to evaluate the potential of the device to make DNA diagnostics more readily field deployable. “These devices have the potential to be used by non-specialists to obtain information that could be useful for everyday decision-making, such as on farms, by businesses and communities,” explained Lockhart.

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