A host species-informative internal control for molecular assessment of African swine fever virus infection rates in the African sylvatic cycle Ornithodoros vector


Dr A. D. S. Bastos, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa. Tel.: +27 12 420 4612; fax: +27 12 362 5242; e-mail: ADBastos@zoology.up.ac.za


African swine fever virus (ASFV) infection in adult Ornithodoros porcinus (Murry 1877, sensuWalton 1979) ticks collected from warthog burrows in southern and East Africa was assessed using a duplex genomic amplification approach that is informative with respect to the invertebrate host species and infecting sylvatic cycle virus. DNA extracted from individual ticks was used as template for the simultaneous amplification of a C-terminal 478-bp ASFV p72 gene region and a ∼313-bp fragment of the tick mitochondrial 16S rRNA gene, under optimized reaction conditions. Within-warthog burrow infection rates ranged from 0% to 43% using this approach, and phylogenetic analysis of 16S gene sequences revealed the presence of three geographically discrete O. porcinus lineages, but no support for subspecies recognition. False negatives are precluded by the inclusion of host species-informative primers that ensure the DNA integrity of cytoplasmically located genome extracts. In addition, infection rate estimates are further improved as false positives arising from carry-over contamination when performing a two-step nested polymerase chain reaction are negated by the one-step approach. Phylogenetic comparison of full-length virus gene sequences with the partial C-terminal p72 gene target confirmed the epidemiological utility of the latter in a sylvatic setting. The method is therefore of particular value in studies assessing the prevalence and diversity of ASFV in relation to the African sylvatic tick vector and holds potential for investigating the role of alternative tick species in virus maintenance and transmission.