Identification of mosquito-borne flavivirus sequences using universal primers and reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction
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A reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction (RT/PCR) protocol for the rapid detection and identification of flaviviruses was developed using a set of universal oligonucleotide primers. These primers correspond to sequences in the 3′ non-coding region and in the NS5 gene which are highly conserved among the mosquito-borne flaviviruses. The sequences of the resulting amplified products were analysed for dengue 1, dengue 2, dengue 3, dengue 4, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, yellow fever and Zika viruses, and compared with the published sequences of other flaviviruses. The 291–297 nucleotides corresponding to the C-terminus of NS5 gene showed 56 to 76 % similarity, whereas the 3′ non-coding region (190 to 421 nucleotides) showed only 20 to 36 % similarity. Genetic classification of the Zika virus supported its traditional serological grouping. Recombinant plasmids containing the flavivirus sequences were used in a nucleic acid hybridization test to identify the RT/PCR products derived from viral RNA extracted from experimentally infected mosquitoes. The plasmids were dotted on a strip of nitrocellulose membrane and incubated with the RT/PCR product labelled with digoxigenin during the PCR step. This is a valuable method for the rapid and specific identification of mosquito-borne flaviviruses in biological specimens and for subsequent sequence analysis.