Development and Validation of Improved Diagnostics for Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus

Principal Investigator: Diego Diel

Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences
Sponsor: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Grant Number: AP20VSD&B000C086
Title: Development and Validation of Improved Diagnostics for Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus
Project Amount: $92,950
Project Period: September 2020 to September 2021

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

Encephalitic mosquito-borne diseases like Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus can cause severe disease in humans and domestic horses. EEEV (family Togaviridae, genus Alphavirus) occurs in North and South America and periodically causes severe disease in humans, horses and exotic gamebirds, resulting in high mortality or severe neurologic impairment in most survivors. WNV (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus) is considered the most widely distributed arbovirus in the world and can be associated with flu-like symptoms or viral encephalitis and neurological disease as well as mortality in humans and high mortality in corvids, and other bird species native to North America. In the state of New York, both viruses are endemic and serological studies have shown the circulation of both viruses in wild birds. Given the severe outcomes associated with these infections in animals and humans, rapid detection and differentiation between the two viruses is a critical step so that quick intervention strategies can be deployed in the field.

The objective for this diagnostic work plan is to leverage on the expertise available at AHDC and NVSL to develop and validate robust diagnostic specimens and assays for detection of EEEV and its differentiation from WNV, another arbovirus that causes neurological disease in horses. The preliminary data showing detection of EEEV in whole blood at AHDC and the IgM ELISA detection assay available at NVSL will be leveraged to validate whole blood as a specimen type for EEEV. Additionally, the expertise of both groups will be leveraged to develop and validate a multiplex assay for simultaneous detection and identification of EEEV and WNV. This study will lead to improved diagnostic capabilities for two highly important arbovirus encephalitis affecting horses and humans in the US.