Portable Lab Speeds Detection of Pathogens Responsible for Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death

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Researchers at the USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, and USDA Agriculture Research Service have developed a new tool to rapidly detect the pathogens that cause Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death, a disease affecting a keystone tree species across more than 50,000 of acres of land in Hawai‘i. 

Person processing a sample using the "Lab in a Suitcase"
"Lab in a Suitcase" in use in the field (Credit: Carter Atkinson, USGS. Public domain.)

A fungal pathogen, Ceratocystis fimbriata, is causing Rapid ‘Ōhi‘a Death and mass mortality of ‘ōhi‘a trees (Metrosideros polymorpha) on Hawai‘i Island. Broad concern about the potential spread of the fungus to other islands has resulted in a ban on the movement of  ‘ōhi‘a between islands.The portable lab or "Lab in a Suitcase" was developed to allow for rapid detection of the fungal pathogen in the field. Samples can be collected from trees and tested on site with results in approximately an hour.  The "Lab in the Suitcase" is already being used by the Big Island Invasive Species Committee to detect infected trees. A full report on the methods and field application is available

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