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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32601. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032601. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Identification and differentiation of the twenty six bluetongue virus serotypes by RT-PCR amplification of the serotype-specific genome segment 2.

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Arbovirus Molecular Research Group, Vector-Borne Viral Diseases Programme, Institute for Animal Health, Woking, Surrey, United Kingdom.


Bluetongue (BT) is an arthropod-borne viral disease, which primarily affects ruminants in tropical and temperate regions of the world. Twenty six bluetongue virus (BTV) serotypes have been recognised worldwide, including nine from Europe and fifteen in the United States. Identification of BTV serotype is important for vaccination programmes and for BTV epidemiology studies. Traditional typing methods (virus isolation and serum or virus neutralisation tests (SNT or VNT)) are slow (taking weeks, depend on availability of reference virus-strains or antisera) and can be inconclusive. Nucleotide sequence analyses and phylogenetic comparisons of genome segment 2 (Seg-2) encoding BTV outer-capsid protein VP2 (the primary determinant of virus serotype) were completed for reference strains of BTV-1 to 26, as well as multiple additional isolates from different geographic and temporal origins. The resulting Seg-2 database has been used to develop rapid (within 24 h) and reliable RT-PCR-based typing assays for each BTV type. Multiple primer-pairs (at least three designed for each serotype) were widely tested, providing an initial identification of serotype by amplification of a cDNA product of the expected size. Serotype was confirmed by sequencing of the cDNA amplicons and phylogenetic comparisons to previously characterised reference strains. The results from RT-PCR and sequencing were in perfect agreement with VNT for reference strains of all 26 BTV serotypes, as well as the field isolates tested. The serotype-specific primers showed no cross-amplification with reference strains of the remaining 25 serotypes, or multiple other isolates of the more closely related heterologous BTV types. The primers and RT-PCR assays developed in this study provide a rapid, sensitive and reliable method for the identification and differentiation of the twenty-six BTV serotypes, and will be updated periodically to maintain their relevance to current BTV distribution and epidemiology (

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