In situ processing and efficient environmental detection (iSPEED) of tree pests and pathogens using point-of-use real-time PCR.
Global trade and climate change are responsible for a surge in foreign invasive species and emerging pests and pathogens across the world. Early detection and surveillance activities are essential to monitor the environment and prevent or mitigate future ecosystem impacts. Molecular diagnostics by DNA testing has become an integral part of this process. However, for environmental applications, there is a need for cost-effective and efficient point-of-use DNA testing to obtain accurate results from remote sites in real-time. This requires the development of simple and fast sample processing and DNA extraction, room-temperature stable reagents and a portable instrument. We developed a point-of-use real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction system using a crude buffer-based DNA extraction protocol and lyophilized, pre-made, reactions for on-site applications. We demonstrate the use of this approach with pathogens and pests covering a broad spectrum of known undesirable forest enemies: the fungi Sphaerulina musiva, Cronartium ribicola and Cronartium comandrae, the oomycete Phytophthora ramorum and the insect Lymantria dispar. We obtained positive DNA identification from a variety of different tissues, including infected leaves, pathogen spores, or insect legs and antenna. The assays were accurate and yielded no false positive nor negative. The shelf-life of the lyophilized reactions was confirmed after one year at room temperature. Finally, successful tests conducted with portable thermocyclers and disposable instruments demonstrate the suitability of the method, named in Situ Processing and Efficient Environmental Detection (iSPEED), for field testing. This kit fits in a backpack and can be carried to remote locations for accurate and rapid detection of pests and pathogens.