The recent outbreaks of West Nile (WN) encephalitis and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) in the United States have highlighted the need for rapid and specific methods of detecting arboviral antigens in mosquitoes. We evaluated rapid, field-usable assays for detecting and differentiating WN and SLE viruses in mosquito pools, based on a patent-pending, immunochromatographic technology (VecTest) formatted on a dipstick. The device provides results in less than 20 min and can be used in laboratories with adequate containment facilities. In laboratory assessments, both the SLE and WN virus tests demonstrated sensitivity comparable with that of an antigen capture ELISA, but less than can be achieved with Vero cell plaque or reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assays. There was no evidence of cross-reaction when tested with high concentrations of heterologous flavivirus antigens or with Eastern equine encephalitis or Western equine encephalitis viruses. Both the WN and SLE dipstick tests delivered a clear positive result with a single positive specimen in a pool of 50 mosquitoes. This virus assay technology reduces the time required to obtain test results and will allow rapid medical threat assessment and effective targeting of vector control measures.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1