Methods for detecting Zika virus in feces: A case study in captive squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis)
PLOS ONE • Milich, Koestler, Simmons, Nehete, Di Fiore, Williams, Dudley, Vanchiere, Payne
Abstract: A strain of Zika virus (ZIKV) of Asian origin associated with birth defects and neurological disorders has emerged and spread through the Americas. ZIKV was first isolated in the blood of nonhuman primates in Africa and has been detected in the blood, saliva, and urine of a few catarrhine species in both Africa and Asia, suggesting that nonhuman primates may serve as both a source and a reservoir of the virus. The recent introduction of ZIKV to human populations in the Americas presents the potential for the virus to spread into nonhuman primate reservoirs. Thus, it is critical to develop efficient and noninvasive detection methods to monitor the spread of the virus in wild nonhuman primate populations. Here, we describe a method for ZIKV detection in noninvasively collected fecal samples of a Neotropical primate. Fecal samples were collected from two captive squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis boliviensis) that were experimentally infected with ZIKV (Strain Mexico_1_44) and an additional two uninfected squirrel monkeys. Nucleic acids were extracted from these samples, and RT-qPCR was used to assay for the presence of ZIKV using primers flanking a 101 bp region of the NS5 gene. In both ZIKV-inoculated animals, ZIKV was detected 5–11 days post-infection, but was not detected in the uninfected animals. We compare the fecal results to ZIKV detection in serum, saliva, and urine samples from the same individuals. Our results indicate that fecal detection is a cost-effective, noninvasive method for monitoring wild populations of Neotropical primates as possible ZIKV reservoirs.