In a West Nile virus (WNV)-free ecosystem, it is essential to verify the integrity of RNA before concluding that RNA extracted from mosquito specimens is negative for WNV gene sequences. The primary objective of our study was to develop a rapid molecular assay to rapidly screen mosquitoes for the presence of 18S RNA and WNV gene sequences. Mosquitoes, collected from multiple sites on the island of O‘ahu, were pooled into groups of 1–50 mosquitoes according to capture site, date, and species. Using primer design software and the GenBank database, generic oligonucleotide primer pairs were designed to amplify mosquito18S rRNA gene sequences from different species. RNA was extracted from mosquito pools, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was performed for the presence of mosquito18S rRNA and WNV gene sequences. Three of the seven primer pairs successfully detected 18S rRNA sequences for both Aedes and Culex by RT-PCR, and one primer pair successfully amplified 18S rRNA sequences for 15 different mosquito species. All 64 mosquito pools from 10 different sites on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, were negative for WNV nonstructural protein-5 gene sequences. This simple, one-step RT-PCR method for screening mosquito pools for arboviruses will become an increasingly valuable tool as WNV becomes endemic throughout the Americas.
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Vol. 41 • No. 4