Nervous necrosis virus (NNV) is the cause of viral nervous disease, which is a serious constraint on production for grouper aquaculture. Real-time PCR is commonly used to detect and quantify NNV, has the disadvantages of being expensive and technically demanding. In this study, an immunomagnetic reduction (IMR) assay was developed as a rapid and cost-effective alternative to real-time PCR. This method used magnetic nanoparticles conjugated with antibodies specific for viral surface antigens to detect NNV in grouper tissue samples. The association of NNV with the antibody-conjugated magnetic particles resulted in a reduction in magnetic signal, which was strongly correlated with the concentration of NNV, as determined by real-time PCR. Grouper larvae were prepared for testing using a viral extraction buffer which provided a rapid, 15-min method of extracting viral antigens and had an extraction efficiency of higher than 80%. In addition, this study proposes using magnetic nanoparticles as labeling markers and as an assaying reagent for NNV. The magnetic nanoparticles are functionalized with antibodies against the viral surface of NNV and are able to associate specifically with NNV. The reduction of the magnetic signals comes from the association between magnetic particles and NNV, and relates to the concentration of NNV. The results show that the detected concentrations of NNV are highly correlated to those detected by real-time PCR.
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