Puumala virus (PUUV) is the most common cause of hantavirus infection in Europe, with thousands of cases occurring particularly in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe and Russia. It causes a mild form of hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome also known as nephropathia epidemica (NE) with clinical picture ranging from mild to severe. Currently, the laboratory diagnosis of NE is mainly based on serology. Here, we evaluated a real-time one-step qRT-PCR (PUUV-qRT-PCR) for detection of PUUV with 238 consecutive diagnostic serum samples from patients with suspected PUUV infection. The PUUV-qRT-PCR was both specific and sensitive for PUUV RNA. The analytical sensitivity (limit of detection) was estimated to be four copies of PUUV per reaction. Altogether 28 out of 30 (93%) PUUV IgM positive samples were positive also for PUUV RNA. No false positives were detected and the specificity was thus 100%. Interestingly, one sample was found positive in PUUV-qRT-PCR prior to subsequent IgM and IgG seroconversion. PUUV-qRT-PCR could be used for diagnostics in the early phase of NE infection and might be helpful especially in the rare severe cases when the patient’s condition may deteriorate rapidly.
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