article / 6 February 2024

Rapid onsite DNA test identifies bushmeat at airport

A portable nanopore DNA sequencer has been used to determine the species of origin of bushmeat intercepted at Brussels Airport during a day of baggage searches.

The VeRIF-ID vertebrate identification procedure has been developed by our University of Leicester PhD student, @Emily Patterson, to enable anyone to extract and sequence DNA from a wide variety of vertebrate tissue samples including meat, hair, feather, horn, bone etc. With an investment of little more than $5,000 to purchase the equipment and consumables including a Bento Lab for PCR and Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION portable sequencing device she was able to determine the likely species of origin of 15 diverse samples confiscated during a baggage check of flights from Central African countries arriving at Brussels Airport all within a 6 hour shift. This was the first field trial at a customs post of a simplified set of protocols with the aim of increasing awareness of the diversity of species being illegally imported into Europe. The tests were carried out in collaboration with Sandrella Morrison-Lanjouw a PhD candidate at the University of Utrecht who is studying the bushmeat trade and its potential for introducing zoonotic diseases and was facilitated by Anne-Lise Chaber (University of Adelaide) and Maud Istasse (SPF Santé Publique) and her many colleagues from the Belgian authorities. We hope to perform additional trials at other airports and locations to demonstrate the wider utility of the test and aim to publish the protocols this year in order to permit wider adoption of the method. You can read about this first trial in

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