Environmental DNA detection of crayfish spores

The detection of environmental DNA (eDNA), i.e., DNA traces of organisms in their environment, is getting more and more important for the conservation of endangered species. Indigenous crayfish species like the noble crayfish (Astacus astacus) or the stone crayfish (Austrapotamobius torrentium) are today threatened i.a. by the crayfish plague disease agent Aphanomyces astaci.  The classical approach to detect A. astaci and to determine the agent level is to extract the pathogens´ DNA from the tissue of infected crayfish. This process is invasive and time consuming. Therefore we are working on improving the detection of A. astaci zoospores from water samples. This approach was first established by David Strand (Strand et al. 2014) from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research in Oslo, Norway. A specific volume of water is filtered and processed in the lab. The A. astaci DNA in the zoospores can then be extracted and the agent level determined via quantitative real time PCR. Our primary aim is to establish a more efficient pumping method, thus increasing the quantity and quality of the detected DNA and making it possible to further characterize the genetic lineage of A. astaci (more info). Additionally, we want to get a better understanding of the spread of A. astaci within Rhineland-Palatinate and Germany. The eDNA detection method enables us to quickly identify water bodies containing the crayfish plague disease agent A. astaci. This is especially important for restocking of indigenous species for conservation efforts.



Sampling set up for eDNA detection of Aphanomyces astaci (Photo: Panteleit)



Anne Schrimpf

Jörn Panteleit