Deployable Molecular Detection of Arboviruses in the Australian Outback

Timothy J. J. Inglis Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Nedlands, Australia.
School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.
3rd Health Support Battalion, Adelaide, Australia.

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Richard S. Bradbury 3rd Health Support Battalion, Adelaide, Australia.
School of Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia.

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Russell L. McInnes Agilent Technologies Australia, Mulgrave, Australia.

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Stephen P. Frances Australian Army Malaria Institute, Queensland, Australia.

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Adam J. Merritt Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Nedlands, Australia.
School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.

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Avram Levy Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Nedlands, Australia.
School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.

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Jay Nicholson 2nd General Health Battalion, Queensland, Australia.

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Peter J. Neville 2nd General Health Battalion, Queensland, Australia.

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Michael Lindsay 2nd General Health Battalion, Queensland, Australia.

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David W. Smith Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Nedlands, Australia.
School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.

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The most common causes of human infection from the arboviruses that are endemic in Australia are the arthritogenic alphaviruses: Ross River virus (RRV) and Barmah Forest virus (BFV). The most serious infections are caused by the neurotropic flaviviruses, Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEV) and the Kunjin subtype of West Nile virus. The greatest individual risk of arbovirus infection occurs in tropical/subtropical northern Australia because of the warm, wet summer conditions from December to June, where conventional arbovirus surveillance is difficult due to a combination of low population density, large distances between population centers, poor roads, and seasonal flooding. Furthermore, virus detection requires samples to be sent to Perth up to 2,000 km away for definitive analysis, causing delays of days to weeks before test results are available and public health interventions can be started. We deployed a portable molecular biology laboratory for remote field detection of endemic arboviruses in northern Queensland, then in tropical Western Australia and detected BFV, MVEV, and RRV RNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays of extracts from mosquitoes trapped in Queensland. We then used a field-portable compact real-time thermocycler for the samples collected in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Real-time field PCR assays enabled concurrent endemic arbovirus distribution mapping in outback Queensland and Western Australia. Our deployable laboratory method provides a concept of operations for future remote area arbovirus surveillance.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Timothy J. J. Inglis, Department of Microbiology, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Locked Bag 2009, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia. E-mail: tim.inglis@health.wa.gov.au

Authors' addresses: Timothy J. J. Inglis, Department of Microbiology, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Nedlands, Australia, School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia, and 3rd Health Support Battalion, Adelaide, Australia, E-mail: tim.inglis@health.wa.gov.au. Richard S. Bradbury, School of Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia, and 3rd Health Support Battalion, Adelaide, Australia, E-mail: r.bradbury@cqu.edu.au. Russell L. McInnes, Genomics, Agilent Technologies Australia, Mulgrave, Australia, E-mail: russell_mcinnes@agilent.com. Stephen P. Frances, Department of Vector Surveillance and Control, Australian Army Malaria Institute, Queensland, Australia, E-mail: steve.frances@defence.gov.au. Adam J. Merritt, Avram Levy, and David W. Smith, Department of Microbiology, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Nedlands, Australia, and School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia, E-mails: adam.merritt@health.wa.gov.au, avram.levy@health.wa.gov.au, and david.smith@health.wa.gov.au. Jay Nicholson, Environmental Health Hazards Unit, Western Australian Department of Health, Claremont, Australia, E-mail: jay.nicholson@health.wa.gov.au. Peter J. Neville, Vector Control, Western Australian Department of Health, Claremont, Australia, E-mail: peter.neville@health.wa.gov.au. Michael Lindsay, Environmental Health Hazards Unit, Western Australian Department of Health, Perth, Australia, E-mail: michael.lindsay@health.wa.gov.au.

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