Real time portable genome sequencing for global food security
Rossitto De Marchi, Bruno
Wainaina, James M.
Osingada, John Francis
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Crop losses due to viral diseases and pests are major constraints on food security and income for millions of households in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Such losses can be reduced if plant diseases and pests are correctly diagnosed and identified early. Currently, accurate diagnosis for definitive identification of plant viruses and their vectors in SSA mostly relies on standard PCR and next generation sequencing technologies (NGS). However, it can take up to 6 months before results generated using these approaches are available. The long time taken to detect or identify viruses impedes quick, within-season decision-making necessary for early action, crop protection advice and disease control measures by farmers. This ultimately compounds the magnitude of crop losses and food shortages suffered by farmers. The MinION portable pocket DNA sequencer was used, to our knowledge globally for the first time, to sequence whole plant virus genomes. We used this technology to identify the begomoviruses causing the devastating cassava mosaic virus, which is ravaging smallholder farmers’ crops in sub-Saharan Africa.