Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction method for detection of Canine distemper virus modified live vaccine shedding for differentiation from infection with wild-type strains.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) remains a common cause of infectious disease in dogs, particularly in high-density housing situations such as shelters. Vaccination of all dogs against CDV is recommended at the time of admission to animal shelters and many use a modified live virus (MLV) vaccine. From a diagnostic standpoint for dogs with suspected CDV infection, this is problematic because highly sensitive diagnostic real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests are able to detect MLV virus in clinical samples. Real-time PCR can be used to quantitate amount of virus shedding and can differentiate vaccine strains from wild-type strains when shedding is high. However, differentiation by quantitation is not possible in vaccinated animals during acute infection, when shedding is low and could be mistaken for low level vaccine virus shedding. While there are gel-based RT-PCR assays for differentiation of vaccine strains from field strains based on sequence differences, the sensitivity of these assays is unable to match that of the real-time RT-PCR assay currently used in the authors' laboratory. Therefore, a real-time RT-PCR assay was developed that detects CDV MLV vaccine strains and distinguishes them from wild-type strains based on nucleotide sequence differences, rather than the amount of viral RNA in the sample. The test is highly sensitive, with detection of as few as 5 virus genomic copies (corresponding to 10-1 TCID50). Sequencing of the DNA real-time products also allows phylogenetic differentiation of the wild-type strains. This test will aid diagnosis during outbreaks of CDV in recently vaccinated animals.