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Background:Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a leading cause of central nervous system (CNS) infections in Asia and results in significant morbidity and mortality. JEV RNA is rarely detected in serum or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and diagnosis of JEV infection is usually based on serological tests that are frequently difficult to interpret. Unlike serum or CSF, urine is relatively easy to obtain, but, to date, there has been minimal work on the feasibility of testing urine for JEV RNA. Methods:We investigated the use of lysis buffer and a Microsep device to optimize urine storage for detection of JEV RNA by reverse transcription real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). The best of the studied methods was then evaluated in consecutive patients admitted to the hospital with suspected CNS infections in Laos. Results:We demonstrated degradation of JEV RNA in urine after even short storage periods at 4°C or -80°C. Although there was no advantage in using a Microsep concentration device alone, immediate addition of lysis buffer to fresh urine improved the detection of JEV RNA at the limit of detection. Conclusions:In 2 studies of 41 patients with acute encephalitis syndrome, 11 (27%) were positive for JEV IgM in CSF and/or serum, and 2 (4.9%) were JEV RT-qPCR positive from throat swabs. JEV RNA was not detected in any of these patients' urine samples. However, lysis buffer was only used during a prospective study, that is, for only 17/41 (41%) patient urine samples. Our findings suggest a need for larger studies testing urine for JEV RNA, with urine collected at different times from symptom onset, and using lysis buffer, which stabilizes RNA, for storage.

Original publication




Journal article


Open forum infectious diseases

Publication Date





Lao-Oxford-Mahosot Hospital-Wellcome Trust Research Unit (LOMWRU), Microbiology Laboratory, Mahosot Hospital, Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.