Portable Red Tide Detector Debuts at NOAA Emerging Tech Workshop
A portable, hand-held instrument that uses genetics to detect the red tide-causing organism Karenia brevis in the field was featured at the second NOAA Emerging Technologies for Observations Workshop. The device, dubbed a “tricorder” after the fictional Star Trek hand-held life detector, is the first of its kind and is able to provide direct results to end users such as government agencies and businesses.
This technology speeds up the decision-making process in closing beaches and shellfish harvesting beds, as well as helping determine the cause of fish kills. The tricorder uses a biotechnology technique called nucleic acid sequence-based amplification to target the messenger RNA in the carbon fixation gene specific to K. brevis.
Red tides in Florida coastal waters (caused principally by K. brevis) can threaten human health and cost millions in tourism, agriculture, seafood, and leisure industries. Currently the State of Florida detects and enumerates K. brevis through the relatively slow, labor intensive and expert process of light microscopy to differentiate this toxic alga from closely related non-toxic and less toxic species.