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Guidance for integration of gene testing in cyanobacterial management

Project Number # 1141

Guidance for integration of gene testing in cyanobacterial management

Background

Some Cyanobacteria species are well known for their potential to produce toxins. However, not all genotypes of known toxin producing species produce toxins. Testing is available that detects and quantifies the presence of strains of cyanobacteria that have the potential to produce toxins. If these strains are present, then additional sampling and testing can be undertaken to confirm the presence of toxins in the water and appropriate management actions taken.

 

Problem

Cyanobacteria gene testing is used by some water utilities as a timely and efficient approach for cyanobacterial management. The gene testing is intended to determine the genetic potential of known toxin producers to produce toxins. However, the current guidelines only use speciation, counts and biovolume to determine the risk to consumers, recreational users and stock.

 

Key questions about how to best integrate gene testing into management include:

  • How should the assay taxonomic unit (OTU) results be interpreted in relation to cell speciation, cell numbers and biovolume?
  • How should the gene testing results be interpreted, as qPCR can give high gene numbers that do not correlate with toxin testing results?
  • Does gene testing reduce overall cyanobacteria management costs?

Benefits 

  1. Improve management of cyanobacteria blooms in water supplies by reducing the toxin risk.
  2. Provide more accurate information of the toxin risks associated with cyanobacteria blooms
  3. Methodology to use gene testing effectively and undertake more targeted toxin testing