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eDNA: another tool in the toolbox

From the lab to the field, environmental DNA (eDNA) is a powerful technology that quickly detects the presence (or absence) of pathogens.

eDNA: another tool in the toolbox – Transcript

Narrator: eDNA, also known as environmental DNA, is the DNA naturally left behind in water or on land from such things as fallen feathers, skin particles, urine, and feces. They contain genetic footprints that can help detect the presence or absence of a plant or animal species or disease.

CFIA, through a government program called Innovative Solutions Canada, has been working with a company to see how this technology will help our work in the future.

Dr. Primal Silva, Chief Science Operating Officer, CFIA: Programs like the Build in Canada Innovation Program, as well as Innovative Solutions Canada, they're really important programs because what it does is provides a way in which the innovation to really thrive in Canada.

At the same time it helps, it does two things, it helps innovation and competitiveness in the country. But it also helps with the public good work, like the work that CFIA does in terms of protecting our animal resources, plant resources, and food safety. In stimulating innovation where our government and industries working together is a really good thing for our country.

Narrator: Using advancements from one innovator, Precision Biomonitoring, CFIA and Parks Canada will be able to consider gaining efficiencies by integrating environmental DNA, also known as eDNA, into surveillance programs. With eDNA solutions the presence of an individual plant or animal species or disease can be detected by analyzing the DNA of target organisms in aquatic or terrestrial environments.

Mario Thomas, Precision Biomonitoring: So what we offer is an on-site DNA solution that provides early surveillance and detection of biological threats.

The key benefit of our solution is a rapid response time. We collect the sample on-site, we extract the DNA and we analyze it on-site and we have an answer under two hours.

Darrin Reid, Project Coordinator, Parks Canada: So we reached out to Precision Biomonitoring to see if they would help us with our invasive fish project looking at smallmouth bass and chain pickerel.

Before eDNA, we would have to go to all of these lakes with all of our different equipment: nets, boats, angling. We also relied heavily on reports from anglers and volunteer anglers.

Now that we have eDNA, we're still going to go in there with as much equipment as we can, nets, traps, all that. But eDNA is another tool in the toolbox, it's another confirmation.

Dr. Primal Silva: So in the work of CFIA where we are dealing with plant pathogens, we are dealing with animal pathogens and various insects that can carry diseases, and also food pathogens like salmonella, we thought this would be really good technology to try out in terms of, "can we actually start detecting the presence of these pathogens in near real-time?"

So we have partnered with this company to actually test this out and the best thing about this is actually that the company has been funded by a government program in recognition of their quality of that work. Now we have a way of applying that technology for public good.

So we are very excited about that in terms of moving ahead with this project.

Narrator: The work funded through the Innovative Solutions Canada program is now complete and has revealed that eDNA technology is a useful tool for governments and industry to expand their diagnostic capabilities.

CFIA continues to explore how this technology can help us extend our detection work from the lab to the field, ultimately enhancing health and safety outcomes for Canadians.

[End of recording]

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