To facilitate detection of active bluetongue virus (BTV) infection, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol was developed. The BTV reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) is a 1-tube reaction and involves chemical denaturation of the double-stranded viral RNA target, a complementary DNA (cDNA) synthesis step, and PCR amplification of the cDNA. BTV RT-PCR using primers derived from highly conserved genome segment 10 results in a 251–base pair (bp) product. BTV RNA from all USA prototype serotypes 2, 10, 11, 13, and 17; a wide spectrum of USA BTV field isolates including serotypes 10, 11, 13, and 17; and a spectrum of Israeli field isolates including serotypes 2, 4, 6, 10, and 16 were detected by BTV RT-PCR. With agarose gels, the 251–bp product was detected from as little as 100 fg-1 pg of BTV RNA, which is equivalent to 5 × 103-5 × 104 viral particles or 5 × 102-5 × 103 infectious units. With dot blot hybridization, specific PCR product was detected from as little as 1 fg of BTV RNA, which is equivalent to 50 viral particles, or 5 infectious units. This level of sensitivity is comparable to that of virus isolation. The BTV RT-PCR using primers derived from genome segment 10 can detect a wide spectrum of USA and Israeli BTV serotypes and has potential for detection of infection by the BTV serogroup. Application of this BTV PCR to clinical samples is in progress.
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