Development and validation of a quantitative PCR assay for detection of Emydoidea herpesvirus 1 in free-ranging Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii)

J Virol Methods. 2018 Apr;254:40-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2018.01.006. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Blanding's turtles (Emydoidea blandingii), an endangered species in Illinois, have experienced range-wide declines because of habitat degradation and fragmentation, predation, and road mortality. While ongoing studies are crucial to a thorough understanding of the natural history and demographics in these disjointed Illinois populations, infectious disease threats have been largely unevaluated. Herpesvirus outbreaks have been associated with high morbidity and mortality in populations of captive tortoises and turtles worldwide, including the family Emydidae (pond and box turtles). However, novel herpesviruses including Terrapene herpesvirus 1, Emydid herpesvirus 1 and 2, and Glyptemys herpesvirus 1 and 2, have recently been identified in apparently healthy free-ranging freshwater turtles. In 2015, 20 free-ranging Blanding's turtles in DuPage County, Illinois were screened for a herpesvirus using consensus PCR. A novel herpesvirus species (Emydoidea herpesvirus 1; EBHV1) was identified in two animals and shared a high degree of sequence homology to other freshwater turtle herpesviruses. Two quantitative real-time PCR assays, using EBHV1 primer-1 and primer-2, were developed to target an EBHV1-specific segment of the DNA-dependent DNA polymerase gene and validated. Both assays performed with high efficiency (slope = -3.2; R2 = 1), low intra-assay variability, and low inter-assay variability (coefficient of variation <2% at all dilutions). However, EBHV1 primer-2 displayed less variation and was selected to test clinical samples and five closely related herpesvirus control samples. Results indicate that this assay is specific for EBHV1, has a linear range of detection from 108 to 101 viral copies per reaction, and can categorically detect as few as 1 viral copy per reaction. This qPCR assay provides a valuable diagnostic tool for future characterization of EBHV1 epidemiology.

Keywords: Blanding’s turtle; Chelonian; Emydoidea blandingii; Epidemiology; Herpesvirus; qPCR.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Animal Diseases / virology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae / genetics*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction* / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Turtles / virology*