Impact of RNA degradation on viral diagnosis: An understated but essential step for the successful establishment of a diagnosis network

Damarys Relova, Liliam Rios, Ana M. Acevedo, Liani Coronado, Carmen L. Perera, Lester J. Pérez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current global conditions, which include intensive globalization, climate changes, and viral evolution among other factors, have led to an increased emergence of viruses and new viral diseases; RNA viruses are key drivers of this evolution. Laboratory networks that are linked to central reference laboratories are required to conduct both active and passive environmental surveillance of this complicated global viral environment. These tasks require a continuous exchange of strains or field samples between different diagnostic laboratories. The shipment of these samples on dry ice represents both a biological hazard and a general health risk. Moreover, the requirement to ship on dry ice could be hampered by high costs, particularly in underdeveloped countries or regions located far from each other. To solve these issues, the shipment of RNA isolated from viral suspensions or directly from field samples could be a useful way to share viral genetic material. However, extracted RNA stored in aqueous solutions, even at -70 °C, is highly prone to degradation. The current study evaluated different RNA storage conditions for safety and feasibility for future use in molecular diagnostics. The in vitro RNA-transcripts obtained from an inactivated highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus was used as a model. The role of secondary structures in the protection of the RNA was also explored. Of the conditions evaluated, the dry pellet matrix was best able to protect viral RNA under extreme storage conditions. This method is safe, cost-effective and assures the integrity of RNA samples for reliable molecular diagnosis. This study aligns with the globally significant "Global One Health" paradigm, especially with respect to the diagnosis of emerging diseases that require confirmation by reference laboratories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19
JournalVeterinary Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Laboratory networks
  • RNA storage
  • Real time RT-PCR
  • Sample exchange
  • Secondary structures
  • Viral diagnosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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