• Project No 1141
  • Project Name Guidance for integration of gene testing in cyanobacterial management
  • Lead Organisation Melbourne Water
  • Research Lead Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
  • Main Researcher Aaron Jex
  • Completion Year 2023

Project Description

There are many species of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), and each species can have a number of genotypes. Water utilities routinely monitor reservoirs and lagoons for the harmful toxin-producing species, and when they find a threshold number of cells, proceed to test for toxins. The problem is that not all genotypes of known toxin-producing species produce toxins. There is already a well-established quantitative PCR method that detects the genes responsible for making toxins, but the relationship between occurrence of these toxic genotypes and the amount of toxin in one water sample is not straightforward.

This project will create a modified version of the existing regulatory protocols for managing toxic blue-green algal blooms by adding the toxic gene qPCR test to the current tests for toxin and species identification. This modified protocol will then be used to assess samples for which there are already results from all three tests. The original management costs will be compared to the desktop analysis of hypothetical costs that would have been incurred if genotoxicity testing had been included in the protocol. Could gene testing reduce overall cyanobacteria management costs and confer operational benefits?