Scientists Grapple With New Virus Threat to Broiler IndustryBy
A new virus strain has reached epidemic proportions in broiler breeder
chickens around the world in the past two years. Avian leukosis is a group of
viruses that cause tumors in chickens, eventually killing them.
The same Agricultural Research Service
lab that helped eradicate earlier forms of the virus is attacking the newest
strain, known as avian leukosis subgroup J (ALV-J).
Like earlier strains of avian leukosis, subgroup J poses no threat to humans
or other animals. But, as the most virulent avian leukosis strain to date, it is
a major threat to the industry's economics. Shortages of breeding stock are
already showing up. That causes concern in the U.S. industry, which currently
meets a U.S. market demand for almost 8 billion broilers a year.
At the ARS Avian Disease and
Oncology Laboratory in East Lansing, Mich., Aly M. Fadly, an ARS veterinary
medical officer, heads the ALV-J research team. He and colleagues are
developing viral detection kits for industry. They're also testing potential
They have developed a DNA-based lab test for detecting the virus. But they
want to develop a field kit for breeder farms. They developed the test through a
cooperative research and development agreement with a major breeding company.
They expect more such R&D agreements on diagnostic test kits as well as
The East Lansing researchers are testing key ALV-J proteins for use in
diagnostic kits and vaccines. One protein has been supplied to several
companies, one of which is testing the potential of the protein for use in
A story about the fight against the new avian leukosis epidemic appears in
the August issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine. The article
also is on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Aly M. Fadly, ARS Avian Disease and Oncology
Laboratory, East Lansing, Mich., phone (517) 337-6837, fax (517) 337-6776,