Discovering New Cane Toad Viruses

In 1935, 101 Hawaiian cane toads were introduced into Queensland to control the cane beetle. Now, over 2 billion feral toads ravage 1.2 million km2 of northern Australia and threaten native species. One way to eliminate the cane toad is to find new, deadly, toad-specific viruses. Previously, we only knew of one cane toad virus, which was not suitable for biocontrol as it could affect native amphibians.

The aim of this project is to increase our understanding of the cane toad and to find new viruses that can infect it. Our lab is collaborating with several institutions and we have already sequenced the entire 2 Gb cane toad genome for the first time. We are performing RNA-seq and PCR-based techniques on toad tissues sourced from diverse locations to find genetically divergent viruses that are infecting toads in nature. This project involves a combination of wet lab work involving nucleic acid and virus extraction from toad tissues, and PCR amplification methods to find viruses. This project also involves bioinformatic analysis of toad RNA-seq data and genomic data to find virus-like sequences

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