Rapid and simple detection of foot-and-mouth disease virus: evaluation of a cartridge-based molecular detection system for use in basic laboratories.
Highly contagious transboundary animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) are major threats to the productivity of farm animals. To limit the impact of outbreaks and to take efficient steps towards a timely control and eradication of the disease, rapid and reliable diagnostic systems are of utmost importance. Confirmatory diagnostic assays are typically performed by experienced operators in specialized laboratories, and access to this capability is often limited in the developing countries with the highest disease burden. Advances in molecular technologies allow implementation of modern and reliable techniques for quick and simple pathogen detection either in basic laboratories or even at the pen-side. Here, we report on a study to evaluate a fully automated cartridge-based real-time RT-PCR diagnostic system (Enigma MiniLab®) for the detection of FMD virus (FMDV). The modular system integrates both nucleic acid extraction and downstream real-time RT-PCR (rRT-PCR). The analytical sensitivity of this assay was determined using serially diluted culture grown FMDV, and the performance of the assay was evaluated using a selected range of FMDV positive and negative clinical samples of bovine, porcine and ovine origin. The robustness of the assay was evaluated in an international inter-laboratory proficiency test and by deployment into an African laboratory. It was demonstrated that the system is easy to use and can detect FMDV with high sensitivity and specificity, roughly on par with standard laboratory methods. This cartridge-based automated real-time RT-PCR system for the detection of FMDV represents a reliable and easy to use diagnostic tool for the early and rapid disease detection of acutely infected animals even in remote areas. This type of system could be easily deployed for routine surveillance within endemic regions such as Africa or could alternatively be used in the developed world.