Blinded laboratory comparison of the in situ enzyme immunoassay, the VecTest wicking assay, and a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay to detect mosquitoes infected with West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis viruses

Robert E. Chiles, Emily N. Green, Ying Fang, Laura Goddard, Amy Roth, William Reisen, Thomas W. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


A blinded laboratory evaluation compared the accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of an in situ enzyme immunoassay (EIA), VecTest wicking assay, and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to detect and distinguish West Nile (WN) and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) viruses in pools of 50 mosquitoes. Adult female Culex tarsalis Coquillett were inoculated with either WN or SLE viruses, held for 0-11 d at 28°C, killed by freezing, and then were added to 49 or 48 uninfected mosquitoes to make up 14 pools positive for WN virus, 14 positive for SLE virus, 14 positive for both WN and SLE viruses, and 14 negative for virus. Pools were number coded and tested blindly. Virus was not detected in known negative pools. VecTest and RT-PCR assays were comparably sensitive and accurate, detecting virus in pools containing females held for 3 d postinoculation; only RT-PCR detected SLE virus in pools on days 0-1. The VecTest and RT-PCR produced a single false-positive result for WN and SLE, respectively. RT-PCR detected RNA in samples positive by the VecTest, indicating that the detergent in the wicking buffer did not prevent RT-PCR from confirming VecTest results. Detector antibodies used in the in situ EIA cross-reacted between SLE and WN viruses, reducing accuracy. Both the VecTest and RT-PCR provided rapid and specific results, but they detected only those viruses known to be present. Plaque assay on Vero cells was comparably sensitive and had the added benefit of detecting newly emerging viruses, but this method required virus culture followed by identification, thereby delaying reporting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-544
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004



  • In situ enzyme immunoassay
  • Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction
  • St. Louis encephalitis virus
  • VecTest wicking assay
  • West Nile virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases

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