A new field test developed by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) for detecting Tropical Race 4 (TR4) – the Fusarium strain that causes the much-feared Panama disease in bananas – has tested positive in Colombia.
The so-called LAMP test (from Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification assay) helped swiftly determine the presence of TR4 in the South American country.
The WUR test is faster – results are availiable within an hour – and more practical than laboratory tests and allows banana farmers and authorities to take immediate measures once suspect plants test positive for the fungus in order to prevent further spreading.
The LAMP test was developed by a research team led by professor Gert Kema (WUR).
It had never previously been possible to diagnose TR4 this quickly, which marks an important step for banana growers worldwide, says WUR.
Gert Kema, professor in Phytopathology at WUR, heads the team that developed the new test. “The main benefit of the new LAMP test is that it has a handy size and can be used in the field. It is no longer necessary to employ a laboratory to analyse the samples. In principle, any company active in banana farming can purchase the device, train its employees and deploy it immediately.”
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First molecular test for TR4
The same WUR research group developed the first molecular test for TR4 in 2010. Commercialised by ClearDetections, the test is now being used around the world and has become an essential tool in detecting and quarantining TR4. In the years that followed, the group developed a DNA database of Fusarium strains which cause Panama disease. The LAMP test uses a new unique DNA fragment of the TR4 genome derived from this database, so the 2 methods strengthen each other.