Hello, I’m Thomas Locke and this is Five Minutes, the podcast that brings you closer to the malaria experts.
The Mobile Malaria team, led by Dr George Busby from the University of Oxford, are about to set off on a six-thousand-kilometre journey across Africa.They’ll be making the journey in a Land Rover, taking portable DNA sequencing technology on the road. Sequencing DNA is no mean feat, it requires lots of specialist equipment, stuff you’d normally find in a lab. But this project won’t be done in a high-tech laboratory, it’ll be done from the boot of a car.
I recently spoke with Dr Busby and began by asking how they’re able to take this highly technical operation on the road.
The real innovation that we’re using on this trip is a portable DNA sequencing machine called an Oxford Nanopore MinION. It is very small and it’s very portable. It is, therefore, possible for us to carry this around with us in a car, we’re not the first people to carry it around in a car. What we’re trying to do is be able to take not just the MinION but also a bunch of other lab equipment. There are other pieces of equipment necessary for doing DNA extractions and for checking the quality and quantity of DNA that we think we can all fit that in the back of the car.
In terms of mosquito genome sequencing in itself, why would someone want to do that? What will it tell you?
The pieces of information from DNA that we’re really interested in getting are two things really. We now know that mosquitoes are now becoming more and more resistant to insecticides so we can look for patterns in DNA that we can use to predict whether or not a mosquito is resistant to particular insecticides. That’s one piece of information that we hope the DNA can help us with, understanding the levels of resistance to insecticides of mosquitoes in a certain area.
The other piece of information that we’re interested in getting from DNA, from mosquitoes, is understanding how particular mosquitoes and mosquitoes in a particular village relate to mosquitoes from other villages. DNA can tell you something about the relationship between different populations and that’s the sort of information we’re trying to get from our project.