Testing field-caught mosquito collections can result in thousands of pools, and testing pools of 50 mosquitoes each can be both time consuming and cost prohibitive. Consequently, we have developed an alternative approach to testing mosquito pools for arboviruses, utilizing a superpool strategy. When mosquito samples are processed for extraction of viral RNA and subsequent virus testing via quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, each pool is tested individually. Using the method described here, 0.025 ml from each of 10 pools is combined into a superpool for RNA extraction and testing. When a virus-positive superpool sample is found, each of the original 10 pools that constitute this sample is tested individually in order to find the specific positive sample. By retesting the original samples after the initial superpool screen, we are still able to obtain reliable estimates for minimum infection rates or maximum likelihood estimations. To test this principle, we created controlled mosquito pools of known titer and subjected them to our superpool process. We were able to detect our entire range of laboratory-created pools as being West Nile virus (WNV) positive. In 2005, field surveillance efforts from our laboratory resulted in over 4,000 mosquito pools tested, with 8 resulting WNV-positive samples. We found that all of these field samples were detected as WNV positive using the superpool method and contained calculated virus titers from <0.1 to 4.1 log10 plaque-forming units/ml WNV, indicating that the limit of superpool detection of WNV is below this point. These results reveal that the superpool method could be accurately used to detect WNV in field-collected specimens.
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Vol. 24 • No. 2