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Open Access Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction-Based Diagnosis and Molecular Characterization of a New Rat Coronavirus Strain

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Background and Purpose: Rat coronaviruses (RCV) are highly infectious and spread rapidly through laboratory rat colonies, causing sneezing, nasal and ocular discharges, photophobia, and cervical swelling. Current diagnostic methods include serologic testing and histologic examination. During a recent rat coronavirus outbreak, we tested a rapid, noninvasive method of RCV diagnosis that involved use of reverse transcriptasepolymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis to detect RCV RNA on cages housing infected rats.

Methods: The RT-PCR was used to detect RCV RNA in tissues from infected rats and on cages housing infected rats and to amplify portions of the RCV N, M, and S genes for molecular characterization.

Results: The RT-PCR detected RCV RNA on cages and in tissues from infected rats. The RCV-NJ N gene is most closely related to the MHV-Y N gene. The M proteins of RCV-NJ and RCV-SDA are 99% homologous, and the six RCV S protein fragments are 97 to 100% homologous.

Conclusions: Use of RT-PCR with cage-swab specimens was capable of diagnosing RCV infection in and viral excretion from rats. Additionally, molecular characterization of the N, M, and S genes of RCV-NJ provided baseline information that can be used in performing further epidemiologic studies.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1999-10-01

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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