We evaluated the commercially available Rapid Analyte Measurement Platform (RAMP®) West Nile virus (WNV) antigen detection test for sensitivity and consistency with real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) confirmation testing. Panels of samples consisting of WNV-spiked mosquito pools and negative control pools were sent to 20 mosquito abatement districts (MADs) that processed the pools using the RAMP assay. The samples were then sent to the reference laboratories used by the MADs for confirmation by real-time RT-PCR. Positive pools with virus titers of roughly 1–3 log10 PFU/ml had RAMP scores above the RAMP test positive cutoff score of 30 RAMP units, but these virus-positive samples could not be reliably confirmed by real-time RT-PCR testing. Pools with virus titers ≥4 log10 PFU/ml scored ≥50 RAMP units. Real-time RT-PCR results varied among the confirmation laboratories. With few exceptions, pools returning a RAMP score of ≥100 were confirmed with real-time RT-PCR, while pools returning a RAMP score of 50–99 appeared to be at the limit of real-time RT-PCR detection. Therefore, we recommend using a positive cutoff of 50 RAMP units with no real-time RT-PCR confirmation to maximize speed, efficiency, and economy of the RAMP assay. A more conservative approach would be to implement a “gray zone” range of 50–100 RAMP units. Pools scoring within the gray zone could be submitted for real-time RT-PCR confirmation with the understanding that positive pools may not confirm due to the inhibitory effect of the RAMP buffer on the real-time RT-PCR assay. We also conducted a series of experiments using laboratory-prepared mosquito pools spiked with WNV to compare mosquito homogenization buffers, pool sizes, and grinding methods in order to determine how these variables affect the RAMP and real-time RT-PCR assay results.
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