Using eDNA for biomonitoring has proven its worth in the environmental management industry, however, this doesn’t mean that it is limited to one application. The public health sector can benefit from using eDNA for the surveillance of vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease or West Nile Virus. eDNA can make the process much more efficient and cost-effective.
Take Lyme disease as an example. Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that affects people all over Ontario (Bateman, et al., 2018). Current conventional surveillance methods involve passive and active detection, both of which require multiple steps as outlined on the right. This process uses inefficient methods which require samples to be sent to the lab for identification. If the sample is identified as a vector species of Lyme disease (Ixodes), then it needs to be sent to the National Microbiology Lab (NML) for further diagnostic testing to determine the presence of Lyme disease. Not only is this a time-consuming process, but it also requires additional human resources which increases the costs associated with surveillance. Furthermore, surveillance activities are not consistent in Ontario (Bateman, et al., 2018). As a result, the prevalence of ticks could be underestimated (Bateman, et al., 2018).
This is where using eDNA could considerably improve the process. With eDNA, the entire process of shipping samples to various labs is eliminated. This not only saves time, but also cuts costs. Using PBI’s TripleLockTM Platform, the timeline for the process is reduced to just 80 minutes. This means that surveillance maps can be updated in real-time which allows for the public to be better informed about which areas to avoid. Moreover, the assays developed for the molecular tests are thoroughly validated to ensure high specificity and sensitivity for accurate detection.
Bateman, B., Cook, T., Dennis, L., Farrant, G., Jacobson, E., Kelso, L., . . . Matheson, M. (2018). Report of the Lyme Disease and Tickborne Illnesses Task Force (Canada, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Lyme Disease and Tick-Borne Illnesses Task Force).
West Nile Virus Surveillance
West Nile Virus is a vector-borne disease that is of public health importance in Ontario. Effective prevention of human WNV infections depends on the development of comprehensive mosquito surveillance and control programs (World Health Organization, 2017). Current methods used for WNV surveillance are labour intensive as it requires shipping samples to labs for taxonomic identification. This also makes the process more time consuming and costly. Using environmental DNA (eDNA) and PBIs TripleLockTM platform allows for the entire surveillance protocol to be improved. The process would only involve sample collection, preparation, and on-site analysis. Results would also be available within 80 minutes. The key benefit of the fast turn-around time being that surveillance maps can be updated in real-time. The infographic below depicts the benefits of eDNA biomonitoring compared to the conventional method for WNV surveillance.