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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Detection of squirrel poxvirus by nested and real-time PCR from red (Sciurus vulgaris) and grey (Sciurus carolinensis) squirrels

Janus W Atkin1, Alan D Radford2, Karen P Coyne1, Jenny Stavisky2 and Julian Chantrey1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Neston, Cheshire, CH64 7TE, UK

2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, University of Liverpool, Leahurst Campus, Neston, Cheshire, CH64 7TE, UK

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BMC Veterinary Research 2010, 6:33  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-6-33

Published: 8 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Squirrel poxvirus (SQPV) is highly pathogenic to red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), and is a significant contributing factor to the local extinction of the species in most parts of England and Wales, where infection is endemic in Eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) populations. Although a nested PCR assay has been used successfully to study the epidemiology of SQPV, samples have a long processing time and the assay is not quantifiable.

Results

This project describes the design and optimization of a real-time PCR for SQPV. Comparison with the nested PCR showed the real-time assay to be more sensitive by one log and able to detect approximately 144 genome copies per mg of tissue.

Conclusions

The real-time PCR has been used to quantify viral genome load in tissues from diseased and apparently healthy red and grey squirrels, and suggests that the titre of virus in tissues from diseased red squirrels is considerably higher than that found even in a grey squirrel with cutaneous lesions.