Detection of West Nile virus (WNV) RNA in urine has been anecdotally described and proposed for the diagnosis of WNV infection. This study reports the routine use of real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction for the detection of WNV RNA in urine to support diagnosis of WNV infection during the large outbreak that occurred in northeastern Italy in 2012. Fourteen of 32 patients (43.8%) with symptomatic WNV infection, defined as neuroinvasive disease and fever, had detectable WNV RNA in urine at the time of diagnosis, at a higher rate and load and for a longer time than detection of WNV RNA in blood. Detection of WNV RNA in urine was less frequent (2 of 14 patients [14.2%]) in blood donors in whom WNV infection was identified by WNV nucleic acid amplification testing. Infectious virus was isolated from the urine of a patient with neuroinvasive disease and a high WNV RNA load in urine.
Keywords: West Nile fever; West Nile neuroinvasive disease; West Nile virus; blood donor; diagnostic accuracy; real-time RT-PCR; urine; virus isolation.