Nucleic Acid Preservation Card Surveillance Is Effective for Monitoring Arbovirus Transmission on Crocodile Farms and Provides a One Health Benefit to Northern Australia

Kurucz, Nina, Mcmahon, Jamie Lee, Warchot, Allan, Hewitson, Glen, Barcelon, Jean, Moore, Frederick, Moran, Jasmin, Harrison, Jessica J., Colmant, Agathe M.G., Staunton, Kyran M., Ritchie, Scott A., Townsend, Michael, Meyer Steiger, Dagmar, Hall, Roy A., Isberg, Sally R., and Hall-Mendelin, Sonja (2022) Nucleic Acid Preservation Card Surveillance Is Effective for Monitoring Arbovirus Transmission on Crocodile Farms and Provides a One Health Benefit to Northern Australia. Viruses, 14 (6). 1342.

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The Kunjin strain of West Nile virus (WNVKUN) is a mosquito-transmitted flavivirus that can infect farmed saltwater crocodiles in Australia and cause skin lesions that devalue the hides of harvested animals. We implemented a surveillance system using honey-baited nucleic acid preservation cards to monitor WNVKUN and another endemic flavivirus pathogen, Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEV), on crocodile farms in northern Australia. The traps were set between February 2018 and July 2020 on three crocodile farms in Darwin (Northern Territory) and one in Cairns (North Queensland) at fortnightly intervals with reduced trapping during the winter months. WNVKUN RNA was detected on all three crocodile farms near Darwin, predominantly between March and May of each year. Two of the NT crocodile farms also yielded the detection of MVE viral RNA sporadically spread between April and November in 2018 and 2020. In contrast, no viral RNA was detected on crocodile farms in Cairns during the entire trapping period. The detection of WNVKUN and MVEV transmission by FTATM cards on farms in the Northern Territory generally correlated with the detection of their transmission to sentinel chicken flocks in nearby localities around Darwin as part of a separate public health surveillance program. While no isolates of WNVKUN or MVEV were obtained from mosquitoes collected on Darwin crocodile farms immediately following the FTATM card detections, we did isolate another flavivirus, Kokobera virus (KOKV), from Culex annulirostris mosquitoes. Our studies support the use of the FTATM card system as a sensitive and accurate method to monitor the transmission of WNVKUN and other arboviruses on crocodile farms to enable the timely implementation of mosquito control measures. Our detection of MVEV transmission and isolation of KOKV from mosquitoes also warrants further investigation of their potential role in causing diseases in crocodiles and highlights a “One Health” issue concerning arbovirus transmission to crocodile farm workers. In this context, the introduction of FTATM cards onto crocodile farms appears to provide an additional surveillance tool to detect arbovirus transmission in the Darwin region, allowing for a more timely intervention of vector control by relevant authorities.

Item ID: 76508
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1999-4915
Keywords: flaviviruses, FTA™ cards, Kunjin virus, mosquitoes, saltwater crocodile, sentinel chickens, surveillance, virus isolation
Copyright Information: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2023 02:07
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3003 Animal production > 300304 Animal protection (incl. pests and pathogens) @ 50%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4202 Epidemiology > 420209 Occupational epidemiology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 10 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 1099 Other animal production and animal primary products > 109902 Animal welfare @ 50%
20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200404 Disease distribution and transmission (incl. surveillance and response) @ 50%
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