Development of reverse transcription-PCR assays specific for detection of equine encephalitis viruses

Bettina Linssen, Richard M. Kinney, Patricia Aguilar, Kevin L. Russell, Douglas M. Watts, Oskar Rüger Kaaden, Martin Pfeffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Specific and sensitive reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) assays were developed for the detection of eastern, western, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis viruses (EEE, WEE, and VEE, respectively). Tests for specificity included all known alphavirus species. The EEE-specific RT-PCR amplified a 464-bp region of the E2 gene exclusively from 10 different EEE strains from South and North America with a sensitivity of about 3,000 RNA molecules. In a subsequent nested PCR, the specificity was confirmed by the amplification of a 262-bp fragment, increasing the sensitivity of this assay to approximately 30 RNA molecules. The RT-PCR for WEE amplified a fragment of 354 bp from as few as 2,000 RNA molecules. Babanki virus, as well as Mucambo and Pixuna viruses (VEE subtypes IIIA and IV), were also amplified. However, the latter viruses showed slightly smaller fragments of about 290 and 310 bp, respectively. A subsequent seminested PCR amplified a 195-bp fragment only from the 10 tested strains of WEE from North and South America, rendering this assay virus specific and increasing its sensitivity to approximately 20 RNA molecules. Because the 12 VEE subtypes showed too much divergence in their 26S RNA nucleotide sequences to detect all of them by the use of nondegenerate primers, this assay was confined to the medically important and closely related VEE subtypes IAB, IC, ID, IE, and II. The RT-PCR-seminested PCR combination specifically amplified 342- and 194-bp fragments of the region covering the 6K gene in VEE. The sensitivity was 20 RNA molecules for subtype IAB virus and 70 RNA molecules for subtype IE virus. In addition to the subtypes mentioned above, three of the enzootic VEE (subtypes IIIB, IIIC, and IV) showed the specific amplicon in the seminested PCR. The practicability of the latter assay was tested with human sera gathered as part of the febrile illness surveillance in the Amazon River Basin of Peru near the city of Iquitos. All of the nine tested VEE-positive sera showed the expected 194-bp amplicon of the VEE-specific RT-PCR-seminested PCR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1527-1535
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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