A group of researchers developed an eDNA method to examine the distribution and abundance of the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae, a pathogenic parasite known to cause malformations in North American amphibians.Follow our blog ! Subscribe to our RSS flux
In June 2015, Huver et al. published a paper entitled “Development and application of an eDNA method to detect and quantify a pathogenic parasite in aquatic ecosystems” in the “Ecological Applications” journal.
Summary: Approaches based on organismal DNA found in the environment (eDNA) have become increasingly utilized for ecological studies and biodiversity inventories as an alternative to traditional field survey methods. Such DNA-based techniques have largely been used to establish the presence of free-living organisms, but have much potential for detecting and quantifying infectious agents in the environment, which is necessary to evaluate disease risk. Here, the authors developed an eDNA method to examine the distribution and abundance of the trematode Ribeiroia ondatrae, a pathogenic parasite known to cause malformations in North American amphibians. In addition to comparing this eDNA approach to classical host necropsy, the researchers examined the detectability of R. ondatrae in water samples subject to different degradation conditions (time and temperature). The test exhibited high specificity and sensitivity to R. ondatrae, capable of detecting as little as 14 fg (femtograms) of this parasite’s DNA (1/2500th of a single infectious stage) from field water samples. Compared to the results from amphibian host necropsy, quantitative PCR was ~90% concordant with respect to R. ondatrae detection from 15 field sites and was also a significant predictor of host infection abundance. DNA was still detectable in lab samples after 21 days at 25°C, indicating that their method is robust to field conditions. By comparing the advantages and disadvantages of eDNA vs. traditional survey methods for determining pathogen presence and abundance in the field, it was found that the lower cost and effort associated with eDNA approaches provide many advantages. The development of alternative tools is critical for disease ecology, as wildlife management and conservation efforts require reliable establishment and monitoring of pathogens.
Reference: Huver, J.R., Koprivnikar, J., Johnson, P.T.J., Whyard, S. (2015). Development and application of an eDNA method to detect and quantify a pathogenic parasite in aquatic ecosystems. Ecological Applications 25:4, 991-1002.