A new DNA test can determine if there are pests on a tree in a couple of hours

The new rapid DNA detection method developed at the University of British Columbia identifies pests and pathogens in less than two hours, without the use of complex processes or chemicals. this will significantly save time since now the test results must be sent to the laboratory, and this can take up to several days. Information about this is published in PLoS ONE.

Sometimes tests show nothing, and sometimes they can detect a deadly mushroom or an exotic bug that can destroy local parks, forests, and farms. Therefore, if you want to know as soon as possible what stage your plants are in, you have the opportunity to find out faster and better prepare for the negative consequences.

Richard Hamelin, professor of forestry

Hamelin’s research aims to use genomics to develop more effective methods for detecting and monitoring invasive pests and pathogens that threaten forests. For nearly 25 years, he has been looking for a fast, accurate, and inexpensive DNA test that could be done even in places like forests, without fast internet or constant power supplies.



The presented method meets all the characteristics. Parts of leaves or branches, as well as insects, are placed in a test tube, and the test tube itself is placed in a small battery-powered device. The device checks whether these DNA fragments correspond to the genomic material of the target species, as a result, the machine generates a signal that can be visualized on a paired smartphone.

With this system, we can determine with almost 100% accuracy whether it matches or not if we are looking at a threatening invasive species or one that is safe. We can analyze up to nine samples of the same or different species at the same time.

Richard Hamelin, professor of forestry
Hamelin’s research has been supported by Genome Canada, Genome BC, and Genome Quebec, and is also published in PLOS One. The UBC team, including lead author Arno Capron, tested this approach on species such as the Asian gypsy, white pine rust, and the sudden death of oak pathogen, which are among the world’s most destructive invasive pests.