Bluetongue (BT) is an arboviral disease, which can often be fatal in naïve sheep and white tailed deer, but is usually less severe, or unapparent in other ruminants. Twenty-six bluetongue virus (BTV) serotypes have been recognised so far, two of which (BTV-25 and BTV-26) were recently identified by phylogenetic comparisons of genome-segment/outer-capsid protein VP2 (subsequently confirmed by serological ‘virus-neutralisation’ assays). Rapid, sensitive, reliable and quantitative diagnostic-assays for detection and identification of BTV represent important components of effective surveillance and control strategies.
The BTV genome comprises 10 linear segments of dsRNA. We describe a ‘TaqMan’ fluorescence-probe based quantitative real-time RT-PCR assay, targeting the highly conserved genome-segment-9 (encoding the viral-helicase ‘VP6’ and NS4). The assay detected Seg-9 from isolates of all 26 BTV types, as well as from clinical samples derived from BTV-6w and BTV-8w outbreaks (in Europe), BTV-25 from Switzerland, BTV-26 from Kuwait, BTV-1w, BTV-4w and BTV-8w from Spain, BTV-4w, BTV-8, BTV-10 and BTV-16 from Brazil. Assay efficiency was evaluated with RNA derived from the reference strain of BTV-1w [RSArrrr/01] and was 99.6%, detecting down to 4 copies per reaction. Samples from uninfected insect or mammalian cell-cultures, hosts-species (uninfected sheep blood) or vector-insects, all gave negative results. The assay failed to detect RNA from heterologous but related Orbivirus species (including the nine African horse sickness virus [AHSV] and seven epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus [EHDV] serotypes).