DAO prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03214

Partial validation of a TaqMan real-time quantitative PCR for the detection of ranaviruses

Natalie K. Stilwell, Richard J. Whittington, Paul M. Hick, Joy A. Becker, Ellen Ariel, Steven van Beurden, Niccolò Vendramin, Niels J. Olesen, Thomas B. Waltzek*

*Email: tbwaltzek@ufl.edu

ABSTRACT: Ranaviruses are globally emerging pathogens negatively impacting wild and cultured fish, amphibians, and reptiles. Although conventional and diagnostic real-time PCR (qPCR) assays have been developed to detect ranaviruses, these assays often have not been tested against the known diversity of ranaviruses. Here we report the development and partial validation of a TaqMan real-time qPCR assay. The primers and TaqMan probe targeted a conserved region of the major capsid protein (MCP) gene. A series of experiments using a 10-fold dilution series of Frog virus 3 (FV3) MCP plasmid DNA revealed linearity over a range of 7 orders of magnitude (107-10), a mean correlation coefficient (R2) of >0.99, and a mean efficiency of 96%. The coefficient of variation of intra-assay and inter-assay variability ranged from <0.1-3.5% and 1.1-2.3%, respectively. The analytical sensitivity was determined to be 10 plasmid copies of FV3 DNA. The qPCR assay detected a panel of 33 different ranaviral isolates originating from fish, amphibian, and reptile hosts from all continents excluding Africa and Antarctica, thereby representing the global diversity of ranaviruses. The assay did not amplify highly divergent ranaviruses, members of other iridovirus genera, or members of the alloherpesvirus genus Cyprinivirus. DNA from fish tissue homogenates previously determined to be positive or negative for the ranavirus Epizootic hematopoietic necrosis virus by virus isolation demonstrated a diagnostic sensitivity of 95% and a diagnostic specificity of 100%. The reported qPCR assay provides an improved expedient diagnostic tool and can be used to elucidate important aspects of ranaviral pathogenesis and epidemiology in clinically and sublinically affected fish, amphibians, and reptiles.