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Banana Blight Targeted

A team of 12 undergraduates from disciplines of life sciences, biomedical engineering and biomedical sciences took gold at the International Genetically Engineered Machine 2019 Giant Jamboree with the invention of a rapid test for a nascent banana disease. Banana is a staple food across the world. In recent years, however, plantain production has been under threat of the banana Xanthomonas wilt disease as caused by Xanthomonas campestris pv. Musacearum (Xcm) bacteria. With an incubation period of up to several months, the illness may have spread widely before symptoms surface, which causes the tree infected to wilt and die. To contain infection, the team conceived a quick and portable test kit, which thrives on manipulating the DNA of E. coli bacteria for the production of proteins that detect Xcm’s chemical signals, complete with a circuit system within the E. coli cell. By dipping the banana sample into the test solution, one can see if it is infected, as the presence of Xcm’s signals will trigger the system and lead to the issuance of a red chromoprotein by the E. coli bacteria that turns the solution red. With its enhanced accuracy and sensitivity, the simple tool holds promise to aid farmers and quarantine departments in stopping the spread of the disease.