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International proficiency testing schemes in plant health supported by digital PCR

Tanja Dreo: National Institute of Biology

<div>Proficiency tests are a way in which competence of laboratories is assessed and demonstrated. Despite them being a crucial element of quality assurance system there is a lack of providers in the field of plant health. National Institute of Biology, Slovenia is one of the few organizers and, to our knowledge, the only one to apply novel approaches for improved quality. Assignation of reference values to samples using absolute quantification of the targets with digital PCR allows for a time and cost efficient and metrologically sound preparation of samples even for non-culturable organisms e.g. ‘<em>Candidatus</em> Liberibacter solanaceraum’, phytoplasma, viruses and other. Since 2015, more than 60 participating laboratories from 27 countries and three continents took part in proficiency tests covering detection of <em>Xylella fastidiosa</em>, <em>Ralstonia solanacearum</em>, <em>Erwinia amylovora</em>, grapevine phytoplasmas, ‘<em>Ca</em>. Liberibacter solanacearum’, <em>Erwinia stewartii</em>, detection and phylotyping of <em>Ralstonia solanacearum</em> species complex, and fruit tree phytoplasmas. Some challenges remain, (i) international collaboration to share the load of organizing proficiency tests on alternating basis, (ii) exchange of material needed for sample preparation and (iii) an efficient transport of material via transparent and clear regulatory requirements for delivery.</div>

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