The application of molecular diagnostics for plant virus surveillance

Lab activities on the training course

Early career researchers have declared a five-day introductory level vector and virus diagnostics course a resounding success.

18 delegates from 12 countries were awarded places on ‘The application of molecular diagnostics for plant virus surveillance,’ organised by the CONNECTED Network in partnership with The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Newcastle University, and The Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK. It took place at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, in November 2019.

After they had returned to their home institutions, delegates were asked to complete an evaluation survey.

All confirmed they are now sharing their new knowledge and skills gained on the course with people in their networks.

When asked to quantify the dissemination, it emerged the learning is now being shared with over 600 other people in the delegates’ home countries. This is happening in a variety of ways, including: lab practicals, seminars, tutorials, research supervision, lectures, written articles and funding reports.

Other indications from the findings include:

  • The application of molecular diagnostics for plant virus surveillanceThe IITA venue and course organisation attracted a 4.9 star rating (from a possible 5 stars)
  • The trainers’ competence and expertise was rated at 5 stars across the board
  • The course overall received 5 stars from every respondent
  • A 4.9 star rating was given to the course’s relevance to delegates’ own professional development.
  • Every single delegate believes the knowledge and skills gained will improve the quality of their own research ‘a lot’
  • All those who teach say the course will improve their own teaching ‘a lot’

The course was led by

  • Prof. Lava Kumar, IITA Nigeria, and CONNECTED Network Management Board Co-Chair
  • Prof. Neil Boonham, Newcastle University and CONNECTED Network Co-Director, and
  • Dr. Gonçalo Ramalho E Silva, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK

Prof. Kumar said: “What a pleasure it was to work with such an energetic, lively and enthusiastic group of researchers.

“Feedback shows they all established new professional connections whilst on the course, and most made it clear they had also strengthened existing professional relationships whilst at IITA.

The application of molecular diagnostics for plant virus surveillance, IITA, Ibadan, November 2019

A group shot from Day 1 of the training course at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria

“These new and strengthened connections and relationships will be used in a variety of ways, including in research collaborations, funding applications, and network meetings, workshops and symposiums.”

Prof. Boonham added: “The evaluation results speak for themselves. It’s important to acknowledge that this amazingly successful training event was only possible thanks to a collaborative effort between the trainers and their own institutions, IITA lab support staff, and everyone else at IITA who were wonderfully friendly and accommodating hosts. And, of course, to our wonderfully talented delegates, who made this a truly great experience.”

Course content included:

  • Introduction to DNA barcoding
  • Isothermal amplification masterclass
  • DNA extraction on plants and insects
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
  • Gel Electrophoresis and sample preparation for sequencing
  • Sequence analysis
  • Loop mediated AMPlification (LAMP) and Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA)
  • PCR/LAMP primer design
  • Surveillance and sampling in the field
  • Sample preservation for virus testing

In between practical sessions, delegates received lecture input on diagnostic techniques, validation, quality assurance, troubleshooting, and local issues such as reagent purchasing, storage and waste disposal. There were also team challenges and group activities throughout the week.

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