New tool could mean faster tests for Zebra chip disease

A new portable diagnostic tool for identifying the devastating zebra chip disease may bring faster and more accurate results to stem its spread, according to New Zealand scientists. Zebra chip is a bacteria which alters a plant’s metabolism and burns striped patches in potatoes, making both the potato and its seed inedible and unmarketable. According to Dr Grant Smith who is a plant pathologist with the Plant and Food Research institute in New Zealand has been developing the tool as current tests were not accurate enough. “Because they’re relatively new pathogens we don’t know an awful lot about it so we don’t understand quite what the genetics, what the population structure is, of this bacterium,” Dr Smith said. According to Dr Smith, the new technology would also be portable and cut waiting times from two-three days to roughly 30 minutes. More