Defining the relative performance of isothermal assays that can be used for rapid and sensitive detection of foot-and-mouth disease virus

This study describes the first multiway comparison of portable isothermal assays for the detection of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV), benchmarked against real-time reverse transcription RT-PCR (rRT-PCR). The selected isothermal chemistries included reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) and reverse transcription recombinase polymerase amplification (RT-RPA). The analytical sensitivity of RT-LAMP was comparable to rRT-PCR (101 RNA copies), while RT-RPA was one log10 less sensitive (102 RNA copies). Diagnostic performance was evaluated using a panel of 35 samples from FMDV-positive cattle and eight samples from cattle infected with other vesicular viruses. Assay concordance for RT-LAMP and RT-RPA was 86–98% and 67–77%, respectively, when compared to rRT-PCR, with discordant samples consistently having high rRT-PCR cycle threshold values (no false-positives were detected for any assay). In addition, a hierarchy of sample preparation methods, from robotic extraction to simple dilution of samples, for epithelial suspensions, serum and oesophageal-pharyngeal (OP) fluid were evaluated. Results obtained for RT-LAMP confirmed that FMDV RNA can be detected in the absence of RNA extraction. However, simple sample preparation methods were less encouraging for RT-RPA, with accurate results only obtained when using RNA extraction. Although the evaluation of assay performance is specific to the conditions tested in this study, the compatibility of RT-LAMP chemistry with multiple sample types, both in the presence and absence of nucleic acid extraction, provides advantages over alternative isothermal chemistries and alternative pen-side diagnostics such as antigen-detection lateral-flow devices. These characteristics of RT-LAMP enable the assay to be performed over a large diagnostic detection window, providing a realistic means to rapidly confirm positive FMD cases close to the point of sampling.

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