Background: Conventional reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (Con RT-PCR) assay to detect norovirus is a complex multi-step procedure that requires gel electrophoresis as well as hybridization or sequencing to confirm the results.
Objective: To develop and evaluate a multiplex real time RT-PCR (Mrt RT-PCR) assay that detect and quantify norovirus GI and GII with a single amplification and detection step.
Study design: The primers and TaqMan probes for the Mrt RT-PCR were selected from the ORF1-ORF2 junction region. A total of 97 stools from 41 gastroenteritis outbreaks and 726 stools from children with sporadic diarrhoea were used for this study.
Results: For the 97 outbreak samples, norovirus were detected in 61 of the 69 previously tested positive and 11 of the 28 previously tested negative samples. Eight samples that tested positive for GII by Con RT-PCR but negative by the Mrt RT-PCR also tested negative by a Light Cycler RT-PCR assay. Eighty-two GII and two GI were detected in the 726 sporadic samples. Random primers were more sensitive than specific primers in the cDNA synthesis. The two-step assay using the random primers in RT reaction was 100 times more sensitive than the one-step assay. The Mrt RT-PCR had the same sensitivity as that using two real time RT-PCR for separate detection of GI and GII. A wide dynamic range was obtained with the two-step assay, detecting from 3000 to 3x10(11) of copies RNA/g stool. Very good precision was observed with no cross-reaction with other enteric viruses. The new assay is able to detect both GI and GII in one reaction and brings a cost reduction of approximately 40% compared to separate reactions for GI and GII.
Conclusions: The assay has good precision, sensitivity and specificity and is cost-effective as a routine diagnostic test.