Virus isolation vs RT-PCR: which method is more successful in detecting VHSV and IHNV in fish tissue sampled under field conditions?

R. Knüsel, S. M. Bergmann, Katja Einer-Jensen, J. Casey, T. Wahli

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    This study compared the results of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and traditional virus isolation on cell culture in detection of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV) and infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus (IHNV). RT-PCR was used for 172 tissue sample pools (total of 859 fish) originating from a field survey on the occurrence of VHSV and IHNV in farmed and wild salmonids in Switzerland. These samples represented all sites with fish that were either identified as virus-positive by means of virus isolation (three sites, four positive tissue sample pools) and/or demonstrated positive anti-VHSV-antibody titres (83 sites, 121 positive blood samples) in a serum plaque neutralization test (SPNT). The RT-PCR technique confirmed the four VHSV-positive tissue sample pools detected by virus isolation and additionally identified one VHSV-positive sample that showed positive anti-VHSV-AB titres, but was negative in virus isolation. With IHNV, RT-PCR detected two positive samples not identified by virus isolation while in these fish the SPNT result had been questionable. One of the IHNV-positive samples represents the first detection of IHNV-RNA in wild brown trout in Switzerland. Compared to SPNT, the RT-PCR method detected, as with virus isolation, a much lower number of positive cases; reasons for this discrepancy are discussed. Our results indicate that RT-PCR can not only be successfully applied in field surveys, but may also be slightly more sensitive than virus isolation. However, in a titration experiment under laboratory conditions, the sensitivity of RT-PCR was not significantly higher when compared with virus isolation.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Fish Diseases
    Issue number9
    Pages (from-to)559-568
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus
    • Infectious haematopoietic necrosis virus
    • Virus isolation
    • Sensitivity
    • RT-PCR
    • Serology

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