Tue, 17 May 2022

CANBERRA, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has announced a new environmental DNA (eDNA) research center to boost biosecurity.

The National eDNA Reference Centre will be set up at the University of Canberra in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Researchers at the center will be tasked with developing cutting-edge technology to detect pests at the Australian border.

The eDNA technology works by detecting skin, hair, urine, tissue and faecal matter shed by organisms in an environment such as a shipping container.

It can also be used to detect ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a species.

Dianne Gleeson, a wildlife geneticist from the University of Canberra's Centre for Conservation and Ecology Genetics, said eDNA testing has transformed pest surveillance.

"The work that we've been doing recently with the khapra beetle has been using dust samples from shipping containers where we suck up the dust, extract the DNA and we look for a sign of the species," she was quoted by Nine Entertainment newspapers on Sunday.

"Currently Australia is free of that species and it puts it in a very good market position internationally... because otherwise, it's a massive pest and a massive problem for the grain industry so it could be really destructive if it arrives."

The government has committed 7 million Australian dollars (5.02 million U.S. dollars) in funding for the new center.

Andrew Metcalfe, head of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, said eDNA detection was critical to safeguarding Australia's biodiversity.

"While the program will have the capacity for broad risk management application, our immediate focus is to address risks associated with khapra beetle and high-priority hitchhiker pests generally," he said.

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