Molecular Diversity of the West Nile Virus in Montana
West Nile virus (WNV) has been present in the United States since 1999 and like many RNA viruses, it is known to have high mutation rates. At Carroll College, a decade long project continues in which the state of Montana is surveyed for the presence of WNV. We have created and continue to refine a risk assessment map to predict where outbreaks will occur in a given year. The goal of this particular study was to assess and compare genetic variation of West Nile virus sequences found within geographically distinct mosquito populations across the state of Montana using the highly variable env gene. Two different primer sets were utilized to perform reverse transcription on the viral RNA, which was followed by gel electrophoresis to visualize the amplifications. Amplification has been achieved in a subset of samples, and sequencing of the amplified products was inconclusive. Knowledge about the evolution and diversification of the WNV in Montana will contribute to refinement of the risk assessment model, which should help in making better predictions of WNV outbreaks.