Just as the redistribution of a fleet of small British fishing boats helped during the Battle of Dunkirk, one can say the authors of a recently published article in the world to fight pandemics. Nature Biotechnology.
Sophisticated agtech laboratories and equipment used for breeding and animal husbandry, seed testing and monitoring of plant and animal diseases can be easily adapted for diagnostic testing and tracking in a human pandemic or epidemic, the article says.
“If there is one thing that the current pandemic has shown us, it is that we need to mobilize large-scale efforts to increase diagnostics,” said lead author Steven Webb, executive director of the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan ( USask).
“We need to mobilize ‘large vessels’ to combat pandemics by exploiting and adapting the screening capacity of high-capacity breeding laboratories for plants that can quickly analyze hundreds of thousands of samples.”
The authors call for a national or international effort to coordinate the rapid redistribution of digital agricultural infrastructure for pandemic preparedness. This approach would relieve the pressure on limited testing tools in the health sector and accelerate the ability to respond with treatment and measures to contain the spread and occurrence of diseases.
“Agtech has the infrastructure and capacity to support this need through its versatile equipment that can be used for very large-scale and automated applications including genetic testing and sequencing, virus detection, protein analysis and gene expression,” said Webb.
For example, automated analysis of new plant species can be quickly switched to automated detection of viral RNA or proteins, as well as detection of neutralizing antibodies in humans. Selection of the finest plant cultivars for breeding can be replaced with confirmation of patient diagnosis of infectious diseases.
“As an example, GIFS’s Omics and Precision Agriculture Laboratory (OPAL) combines the digital data analysis of plant genes and traits with the latest precision agricultural technologies and can provide a complete profile and data analysis of 3,000 plant samples per day,” said Webb.
“Appropriate quality control measures would lead to OPAL’s transition from plant sample testing and analysis to human sample diagnostics during a pandemic, in accordance with the regulation and using processes that staff are trained to employ.”
GIFS has already lent equipment to enable extended testing of COVID-19 blood samples and has donated materials and supplies to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
The article states that pandemics also affect animals and plants, with serious consequences for human food security, the economy, the environment and society. For example, the great famine in Ireland caused by the potato movement in the 19th century led to one million deaths and the spread of the knight in Europe claimed another 100,000 lives.
The article emphasizes the need to be able to adapt available agtech infrastructure from “peacetime” applications to emergency use for diagnostic testing. This requires the development of contingency protocols at national and international level.
“There must be comprehensive quality control, which standardizes the process and results of this high-capacity testing of diagnostic samples with pandemic,” Webb said.
There is also a need to invest in agricultural techniques that can be easily adapted for medical use during pandemics.
“We must be proactive in fighting the next one. A proactive strategy on all fronts will ensure that the world is more prepared with the infrastructure and resources needed to respond to a pandemic,” Webb said.
New research shows previously hidden properties of plant genomes
Steven R. Webb et al, Agtech Pandemic Preparedness Infrastructure, Nature Biotechnology (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41587-020-0654-5
Provided by the University of Saskatchewan
Quote: Using agtech plant laboratories for human testing can help fight pandemic, says the study (2020, August 10) which was downloaded August 10, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-agtech-labs-human- pandemic.html
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