A new system, the Toxorhynchites-fluorescent antibody (TFA) test in which the larvae of Toxorhynchites splendens mosquitoes were used for the detection of bluetongue virus (BTV) from Culicoides midges, was developed. Twenty-seven pools of Culicoides midges were collected from bluetongue-prone areas of Tamil Nadu by use of the light-trap and suction-trap methods. A suspension of each pool was injected intrathoracically into T. splendens IV instar larvae and inoculated onto Vero cell monolayers. An indirect fluorescent antibody technique and an immunoperoxidase test were used to detect BTV antigen in smears of crushed midges, crushed larval head smears after incubation for 7 d at 28° and cell monolayers showing cytopathic effects 48 h post inoculation. The suspensions were also injected intravenously into embryonated chicken eggs, and the characteristic BTV-induced lesion(s), viz. cherry-red appearance of embryos, were observed after 48 h. Virus was confirmed by a qualitative neutralization test conducted simultaneously in embryonated chicken eggs. A total of seven out of 27 samples (26%) were positive for the presence of BTV antigen in all the diagnostic systems used. Since BTV propagates readily in experimentally infected T. splendens larvae and the BTV antigen can be detected by the fluorescent antibody technique with a sensitivity comparable to that for virus propagated in tissue culture and embryonated eggs, the TFA system can be adopted as a new method for the isolation of BTV from vectors. The advantages of the TFA system are discussed.
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