Over 6% of global food production is lost due to pathogens, including plant viruses. Plant viruses in the field are often mismanaged or unmanaged due to difficulties in detection of the appropriate virus. Rapid diagnosis and containment is important to prevent disease spread and crop losses. Unfortunately, for many plant viruses this is not practical as the methods of detection are serology which depends on antibodies, many of which are not available, or nucleic acid extraction, amplification and genome sequencing. Both techniques require shipping samples to distant labs, adding time and expense to diagnosis.
Issues with antibodies in developing diagnostic tests for crops include the requirement for large amounts of target virus to develop antibodies against. In many cases obtaining such quantities of virus can be difficult or in some cases impossible and if sourced present with issues around containment in propagating wild type viruses. For these reasons, a team of researchers at the University of Leeds and their collaborators from the John Innes Centre, employed Affimer reagents in their newly published study in the journal Scientific Reports, ‘Affimer reagents as tools in diagnosing plant virus diseases (link is external)’ where they utilise Affimers in an ELISA to distinguish between infected and uninfected crude leaf extracts, that can be developed into a field-based diagnostic assay.