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For the Cassava

Cassava Brown Streak Disease is destroying cassava, a staple food, in parts of Africa, CNN reports, noting that the virus has even been dubbed the "Ebola of plants."

The Cassava Diagnostics Project (CDP) is studying where the disease is, how it spreads, and is developing plants resistant to the virus. CNN notes that Cassava Brown Streak Disease is highly infectious, mutable, and hard to detect — farmers often only find the brown streaks it causes after their whole crop has been destroyed.

While the CDP has taken a trial-and-error approach to testing resistant plants, CNN adds that it is also turning to sequencing tools. It had been shipping samples to Australia for analysis, but has now begun to work with Oxford Nanopore to conduct testing in the field.

"Sequencing speeds up the whole process," James Legg, a plant virologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, tells CNN. "You can identify molecular markers linked to resistance in the field and use them to pre-select plants."

CNN says that it looks as if researchers might be able to stem the spread of the disease. "I would say we are making excellent progress getting it under control," Legg notes.