Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Novel method for virus detection in wildlife

Animal, vector and pathogen movement as well as wildlife landscape alterations lead to the emergence of new infectious diseases. Detecting them requires the development of sensitive and accurate diagnostic methods that can be easily applied.
Novel method for virus detection in wildlife
A significant proportion of emerging infectious diseases (EID) of zoonotic nature originate from wildlife. Those countries that conduct disease surveillance of their wild animal populations are therefore more likely to detect EIDs and implement timely countermeasures. Currently, the methods of viral detection in wildlife samples rely on serology, immunohistochemistry, or DNA-based methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

The scope of the EU-funded WILD SCOPE (Early detection of emerging viruses by next generation in situ hybridization) project was to develop a methodology that is suitable for wildlife sampling. For this purpose, they adopted the in situ hybridization (ISH) technique called RNAscope® for early detection of viruses in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues from wildlife samples. This method enabled the profiling of multiple messenger RNA transcripts at a single cell level, and facilitated the detection of single-copy genes.

The WILD SCOPE team selected two viruses based on their epidemiological relevance, namely MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in camels (Camelus dromedarius) and hepacivirus in bank voles (Myodes glareolus). Hepacivirus was selected because of its potential to serve as a rodent model for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in humans.

With respect to MERS-CoV, scientists analysed FFPE respiratory tissues from zoo camels in continental Europe and free-living dromedary camels from the Canary Islands and Morocco. The tissues were validated by PCR for the presence of MERS-CoV, and tested retrospectively by the RNAscope® ISH method. For hepacivirus, scientists developed a novel probe to study the similarities of the liver infection with HCV in humans.

Overall, the RNAscope® ISH method offers significant advantages compared to existing techniques for wildlife disease surveillance. The technique can be applied to FFPE tissue sections, which can be easily transported and stored without biohazard or temperature constraints. Implementation of this technique should help European countries protect against the incursion of emerging pathogens.

Related information


Emerging infectious diseases, in situ hybridization, MERS coronavirus, hepacivirus
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