Molecular Diagnosis of African Swine Fever by a New Real-Time PCR Using Universal Probe Library


J. Fernández-Pinero, Centro de Investigación en Sanidad Animal (CISA-INIA), Valdeolmos, 28130 Madrid, Spain.
Tel.: +34 91 6202300;
Fax: +34 91 6202247;


A highly sensitive and specific real-time PCR method was developed for the reliable and rapid detection of African swine fever virus (ASFV). The method uses a commercial Universal Probe Library (UPL) probe combined with a specifically designed primer set to amplify an ASFV DNA fragment within the VP72 coding genome region. The detection range of the optimized UPL PCR technique was confirmed by analysis of a large panel (n = 46) of ASFV isolates, belonging to 19 of the 22 viral p72 genotypes described. No amplification signal was observed when closely clinically related viruses, such as classical swine fever, or other porcine pathogens were tested by this assay. The detection limit of the UPL PCR method was established below 18 DNA copies. Validation experiments using an extensive collection of field porcine and tick samples (n = 260), coming from Eastern and Western African regions affected by ASF, demonstrated that the UPL PCR technique was able to detect over 10% more positive samples than the real-time TaqMan PCR test recommended in the OIE manual, confirming its superior diagnostic sensitivity. Clinical material collected during experimental infections with different ASFV p72 genotypes was useful for assuring both the capacity of the UPL PCR for an early viral DNA detection and the competence of the technique to be applied in any ASF diagnostic target sample. The reliability and robustness of the UPL PCR was finally verified with a panel of ASFV-infected clinical samples which was repeatedly tested at different times. Additionally, an internal control PCR assay was also developed and standardized using UPL probes within the endogenous β-actin gene. Finally, the complete study offers a new validated real-time PCR technique, by means of a standardized commercial probe, providing a simple, rapid and affordable test, which is ready for application in the routine diagnosis of ASF.