International proficiency trial demonstrates reliable Schmallenberg virus infection diagnosis in endemic and non-affected countries
Schmallenberg virus (SBV), an orthobunyavirus infecting ruminants, emerged in 2011 in Central Europe, spread very rapidly throughout the continent and established an endemic status, thereby representing a constant threat not only to the European livestock population, but also to neighboring countries. Hence, in endemically infected regions, the maintenance and regular verification of diagnostics is needed and in not yet affected regions, suitable diagnostic systems should be established to be prepared for a potential introduction of the disease. In addition, also for the trade of animals into free regions, highly reliable and sensitive diagnostics are of utmost importance. Therefore, a laboratory proficiency trial was initiated to allow for performance evaluations of test systems available for SBV-diagnostics, but also for evaluation of veterinary diagnostic laboratories performing those tests. Ten serum samples (six seropositive, four seronegative) were provided for serological analysis, four of the seropositive samples were provided undiluted, while the remaining samples represented 1/2 and 1/4 dilutions of one of the aforementioned samples in negative serum. Ten further sera (five virus-positive, five negative) were sent to the participants to be analyzed by SBV genome detection methods. A total of 48 diagnostic laboratories from 15 countries of three continents (Europe, Asia, North America) and three kit manufacturers participated in the SBV proficiency test, thereby generating 131 result sets, corresponding to 1310 individual results. The sample panel aimed for serological analysis was tested 72 times; the applied diagnostic methods comprised different commercial ELISAs and standard micro-neutralization tests. The sample set aimed for genome detection was analyzed in 59 approaches by various commercial or in-house (real-time) RT-PCR protocols. Antibody or genome positive samples were correctly identified in every case, independent of the applied diagnostic test system. For seronegative samples, three incorrect, false-positive test results were produced. Virus-negative samples tested false-positive in two cases. Thus, a very high diagnostic accuracy of 99.58% and 99.66% was achieved by the serological and virological methods, respectively. Hence, this ring trial demonstrated that reliable and robust SBV-diagnostics has been established in veterinary diagnostic laboratories in affected and non-affected countries.