Guidance for integration of gene testing in Cyanobacterial management

Guidance for integration of gene testing in Cyanobacterial management

Gene testing can be used to detect the presence of cyanobacteria with the potential to produce toxins. These results can be used to manage the risk of toxicity in cyanobacteria blooms, however the current guidelines only use speciation, counts and biovolume to determine the risk to consumers, recreational users and stock. The introduction of gene testing will provide utilities with a more streamlined approach to identify toxin production early and fine tune their risk assessments and risk management strategies accordingly.

Details

Cyanobacteria gene testing is a molecular test based on quantitative PCR. The assay detects and quantifies the presence of cyanobacteria and their toxin producing genes from aquatic environmental samples. Not all cyanobacteria species produce toxins and not all strains of toxin producing species have the genetics to produce toxins. Therefore the presence of cyanobacteria does not immediately defer a risk of toxins being present.

Gene testing is used by some water utilities as a timely and efficient approach for cyanobacterial toxin risk management. However, the current guidelines only use speciation, counts and biovolume to determine the risk to consumers, recreational users and stock.

This project will:

  • Review the literature on the use of gene testing from Australian and international water supplies and assess the suitability of gene testing for cyanobacteria toxin risk management
  • Design a methodology that considers toxin risks for possible inclusion of gene testing in cyanobacteria management guidelines
  • Trial the methodology using a combination of case studies from past blooms and current blooms with conventional sampling, gene and toxicity testing.
  • Optimise the method based on the case studies
  • Identify the cost and operational benefits for the optimised methodology
  • Report the findings in a guidance document

Amount being sought

$80,000

Due Date

30th Sep, 2021