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Virol J. 2013 Nov 5;10:327. doi: 10.1186/1743-422X-10-327.

Development of a pan-Simbu real-time reverse transcriptase PCR for the detection of Simbu serogroup viruses and comparison with SBV diagnostic PCR systems.

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Institute of Diagnostic Virology, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Südufer 10, D-17493, Greifswald-Insel Riems, Germany.



Schmallenberg virus (SBV), a novel orthobunyavirus of the Simbu serogroup, was first identified in October 2011 in dairy cattle in Germany, where it caused fever, diarrhea and a drop in milk yield. Since then, SBV additionally has been detected in adult sheep and goats. Although symptoms of acute infection were not observed, infection during a vulnerable phase of pregnancy caused congenital malformations and stillbirths. In view of the current situation and the possible emergence of further Simbu serogroup members, a pan-Simbu real-time reverse transcriptase (RT) PCR system for the reliable detection of Simbu serogroup viruses should be developed.


In this study a pan-Simbu real-time RT-PCR system was established and compared to several SBV real-time RT-PCR assays. All PCR-systems were tested using a panel of different Simbu serogroup viruses as well as several field samples from diseased cattle, sheep and goats originating from all over Germany. Several pan-Simbu real-time RT-PCR products were sequenced via Sanger sequencing. Furthermore, in silico analyses were performed to investigate suitability for the detection of further orthobunyaviruses.


All tested members of the Simbu serogroup (n = 14) as well as most of the field samples were successfully detected by the pan-Simbu real-time RT-PCR system. The comparison of this intercalating dye assay with different TaqMan probe-based assays developed for SBV diagnostics confirmed the functionality of the pan-Simbu assay for screening purposes. However, the SBV-TaqMan-assay SBV-S3 delivered the highest analytical sensitivity of less than ten copies per reaction for duplex systems including an internal control. In addition, for confirmation of SBV-genome detection the highly specific SBV-M1 assay was established.


The pan-Simbu real-time RT-PCR system was able to detect all tested members of the Simbu serogroup, most of the SBV field samples as well as three tested Bunyamwera serogroup viruses with a suitable sensitivity. According to in silico analyses, this system seems to be able to detect a broad orthobunyavirus spectrum. As an additional feature of the pan-Simbu real-time RT-PCR system, subsequent species classification via sequencing is feasible. Regarding SBV diagnostics, the performance of the S-segment targeting SBV-S3 assay was superior with respect to the analytical sensitivity.

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