Our proposed end-users are property owners that have a large amount of kudzu on their land or power line companies. We envision others using our project to eradicate kudzu more easily and safely. This is to help them enable the growth of native species without the invasion of kudzu on their land since kudzu is a serious environmental problem affecting the United States.
Due to the coronavirus situation, we were unable to perform lab work. Once our team has the ability to get into the lab, we will try to use E. coli to produce the toxin which can lead to the elimination of kudzu under strict safety guidelines based on the model we created since E. coli is the only bacteria we have in our lab.
Some safety aspects we need to consider are the risk of E. coli escaping the lab and then transferring its antibiotic resistance to other bacteria or creating a large population of antibiotic resistant E. coli. The E. coli itself causes minimal harm in other organisms. However, it can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, respiratory system, and kidneys in humans (Felson, 2018). Hence we need to create a more detailed plan of both using E. coli and dealing with Phaseolotoxin in our lab and make sure everyone who works on the experiment will be able to handle emergency situations. We are also using Phytotoxin Phaseolotoxin, which is a non-specific plant toxin (Ferguson, & Johnston, 2008), meaning that we can only apply it to areas with a high density of kudzu to prevent the toxin from killing plants that are not kudzu. The toxin is predicted to have an efficiency lower or equal to that of fire. However, it is significantly less detrimental and thus more environmentally friendly than using fire. Since phaseolotoxin is a plant toxin, it is not very likely to cause harm to human health. In fact, it has the ability to control fast dividing cancer cells and might be a novel treatment for leukemia (Bachmann, Xu, Ratnapala, & Patil, 2004). However, great exposure to phytotoxin phaseolotoxin might still affect humans’ ability to urinate and cause hair to fall out. The phytotoxin phaseolotoxin will be used similarly to herbicides. Even though the toxin is much safer, the safety guidelines for using regular herbicides will apply. Therefore, we need to create a more detailed plan for both using E. coli and Phaseolotoxin in our lab and make sure everyone who works on the experiment will be able to handle emergency situations. There are numerous substances to break phaseolotoxin down which can be used to deactivate it if we come up with the result that the phaseolotoxin is not functional and has some other side effect to either the human health and the environment.
After getting successful lab test results and proving that phaseolotoxin does have the ability to eliminate kudzu after experimental trials, approval from the local government and other related authorities are needed before we put it into commercial use. Additionally, the production of a large amount of our design may be another difficulty. We can try to make connections to universities nearby to find out if they will be able to improve our methods for volume production.
At the same time, we will continue our human practice, which will be a crucial part of our future work. Our goal is to educate the local farmers about the increasing invasion of kudzu and its danger to the whole environment. Furthermore, we will provide the farmers with some information about the biology related to the phaseolotoxin and other concepts that appeared in our project.
Bachmann, A. S., Xu, R., Ratnapala, L., & Patil, S. S. (2004). Inhibitory effects of phaseolotoxin on proliferation of leukemia cells HL-60, K-562 and L1210 and pancreatic cells RIN-m5F. Leukemia research, 28(3), 301–306. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leukres.2003.07.002
Felson, S. (2018). E. Coli Bacteria Infection: Symptoms, Treatment, Causes & Prevention. Retrieved October 27, 2020, https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/food-poisoning/what-is-e-coli
Ferguson, A., & Johnston, J. (2008). Phaseolotoxin : Chlorosis, ornithine accumulation and inhibition of ornithine carbamoyltransferase in different plants. Retrieved October 27, 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0048405980900417