DNA Detection for Inspection

DNA barcoding can be used to unambiguously identify an insect species and provide evidence that the insect in question is present in a specific location. As the bar code library expands, the potential uses of this new technology expands. Creative minds are busy thinking up new applications for the new DNA barcode technology.

Mike Merchant in his InsectsInTheCity blog thinks about potential use of DNA technology in bed bug control. He suggests some specialty uses for DNA barcoding as it relates to bed bug control and the pest control industry.
1. In some cases, clients insist they are being bit by bed bugs even though there is no evidence of bed bugs. DNA testing could confirm that the client is correct.
2. If bed bugs are confined to a bedroom, treatment is less expensive than if the entire house or apartment must be treated. A DNA test could reduce the area that needs treatment.
3. A DNA test might be useful for confirming a canine positive.

In the early days of pheromone trapping of the grain pest, Indian Meal Moth, we found that captures of pest insects in a pheromone trap could encourage pest management and sanitation personnel to conduct more vigorous searches for pest populations. If pests are not evident, longer searches may not be fruitful However, if there is positive evidence that the pest is definitely present, the search is less likely to be broken off early and more likely to result in location of the pest population. For bed bugs, a positive DNA test could encourage workers to make more intensive searches for bed bugs, leading to early detection and elimination.

The downsides of the technology are false negatives and false positives How should we interpret a negative result? The absence of DNA evidence is not necessarily evidence of the pest’s absence. Finding a positive DNA sample requires that the location of the pest be sampled. If the pests are located in a restricted area and that specific area is not sampled, then the DNA evidence would be negative but the pests would still be present.

False positives could also occur. If a pest was present in a location, but the population has since been eradicated or gone extinct, there may still be DNA residue. Sampling the area would produce DNA evidence, even though the population had been eliminated.

Successful application of DNA technology requires a lot of thought and validation. The problems with false positives and false negatives suggest that DNA technology will supplement, but not replace current inspection methods.

Underside of Immature Bed Bug

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, News, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

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