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Real-Time Detection of Noroviruses in Surface Water by Use of a Broadly Reactive Nucleic Acid Sequence-Based Amplification Assay

Rutjes, Saskia A., Berg, Harold H.J.L. van den, Lodder, Willemijn J., Roda Husman, Ana Maria de
Applied and environmental microbiology 2006 v.72 no.8 pp. 5349-5358
DNA-directed RNA polymerase, RNA, RNA-directed DNA polymerase, cell culture, clones, cloning (animals), environmental factors, environmental performance, gastroenteritis, genes, heavy metals, humic acids, oysters, polymerase chain reaction, risk assessment, river water, sewage treatment, surface water, viruses, water pollution, Netherlands
Noroviruses are the most common agents causing outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis. Outbreaks originating from contaminated drinking water and from recreational waters have been described. Due to a lack of cell culture systems, noroviruses are detected mostly by molecular methods. Molecular detection assays for viruses in water are often repressed by inhibitory factors present in the environment, like humic acids and heavy metals. To study the effect of environmental inhibitors on the performance of nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA), we developed a real-time norovirus NASBA targeting part of the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) gene. Specificity of the assay was studied with 33 divergent clones that contained part of the targeted RdRp gene of noroviruses from 15 different genogroups. Viral RNA originated from commercial oysters, surface waters, and sewage treatment plants in The Netherlands. Ninety-seven percent of the clones derived from human noroviruses were detected by real-time NASBA. Two clones containing animal noroviruses were not detected by NASBA. We compared the norovirus detection by real-time NASBA with that by conventional reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) with large-volume river water samples and found that inhibitory factors of RT-PCR had little or no effect on the performance of the norovirus NASBA. This consequently resulted in a higher sensitivity of the NASBA assay than of the RT-PCR. We show that by combining an efficient RNA extraction method with real-time NASBA the sensitivity of norovirus detection in water samples increased at least 100 times, which consequently has implications for the outcome of the infectious risk assessment.