Detection and quantitation of infectious pancreatic necrosis virus by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction using lethal and non-lethal tissue sampling

Robert M. Bowers, Scott E. Lapatra, Arun K. Dhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Scopus citations


Infectious pancreatic necrosis virus (IPNV) is a bisegmented double-stranded RNA virus belonging to the family Birnaviridae, genus Aquabirnavirus, which is a major viral pathogen of salmonid fish. The virus infects wild and cultured salmonids, causing high mortality in juvenile trout and salmon. A highly sensitive and specific real-time RT-PCR assay using the fluorogenic dye SYBR® Green I was developed for the detection and quantitation of IPNV in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Rainbow trout were infected experimentally with IPNV in the laboratory by injection or immersion and then pectoral fin, spleen, and head kidney samples were collected for analysis. The corresponding cDNA was synthesized using DNase I-treated total RNA and then real-time RT-PCR was performed using primers based on the IPNV non-structural protein gene, designated as either NS or VP4. Rainbow trout β-actin and elongation factor 1α (EF-1α) genes were used as internal controls. Using real-time RT-PCR, the virus was successfully detected in pectoral fin, spleen, and head kidney tissue samples. The dissociation curves for each amplicon showed a single melting peak at 83, 81.5, and 84 °C for IPNV NS, trout β-actin, and EF-1α genes, respectively. The amplicon size and nucleotide sequence was used to confirm the specificity of the products. Using a dilution series of in vitro transcribed RNA, IPNV was reliably detected down to 10 RNA copies and had a dynamic range up to 107 RNA copies. A time course assay, using immersion challenged samples, revealed that the virus could be detected in pectoral fin, spleen, and head kidney as early as 24 h post-challenge. The average viral load in all three tissues increased over time, reaching its highest level at 21 days post-challenge, which was followed by a slight decrease at 28 days post-challenge. IPNV load in pectoral fin tissue was comparable to the viral load in spleen and head kidney tissues, indicating that pectoral fin could be used for the detection and quantification of IPNV. The development of a non-lethal detection method will be useful for the detection of IPNV and potentially other viruses of finfish in farmed and wild fish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-234
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Virological Methods
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2008
Externally publishedYes



  • IPNV
  • Non-lethal detection
  • Rainbow trout
  • Real-time RT-PCR
  • SYBR Green

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology

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