Background Influenza A viruses are classified into subtypes depending on the antigenic properties of their two outer glycoproteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). Sixteen subtypes of HA and nine of NA are known. Lately, the circulation of some subtypes (H7N7, H5N1) has been closely watched because of the epidemiological threat they present.
Objectives This study assesses the potential of using gel-based microchip technology for fast and sensitive molecular subtyping of the influenza A virus.
Methods The method employs a microchip of 3D gel-based elements containing immobilized probes. Segments of the HA and NA genes are amplified using multiplex RT-PCR and then hybridized with the microchip.
Results The developed microchip was validated using a panel of 21 known reference strains of influenza virus. Selected strains represented different HA and NA subtypes derived from avian, swine and human hosts. The whole procedure takes 10 hours and enables one to identify 15 subtypes of HA and two subtypes of NA. Forty-one clinical samples isolated during the poultry fall in Novosibirsk (Russia, 2005) were successfully identified using the proposed technique. The sensitivity and specificity of the method were 76% and 100%, respectively, compared with the ‘gold standard’ techniques (virus isolation with following characterization by immunoassay).
Conclusions We conclude that the method of subtyping using gel-based microchips is a promising approach for fast detection and identification of influenza A, which may greatly improve its monitoring.