New Virus Test Kit Helps Keep Chicken on the
Dinner Table By Don
August 13, 2001
A new commercial blood test kit based on
Agricultural Research Service technology
detects chicks infected by an extremely virulent strain of avian leukosis
It is the first commercial product to result from an emergency
ARS response to an ALV- J emergence in the United States that reached epidemic
proportions in 1996. The epidemic produced shortages of breeding stock that
threatened the poultry industrys ability to meet the burgeoning demand
for chicken on the dinner table.
The new ALV-J kit, made by Synbiotics Corp. of San Diego, Calif., is
one of two such kits in the world. The other kit was developed through a
similar response by researchers abroad. To meet this worldwide threat, ARS
works with scientists throughout the world as part of an ever-expanding
consortium of private industries, universities and government agencies. The
U.S. Primary Breeders Veterinary Roundtable has funded some of the ARS research
as part of its long-term reliance on ARS for industry-sustaining research.
Biochemist Lucy Lee, at the ARS
Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory
in East Lansing, Mich., made this kit possible by finding a way to isolate and
clone the gene that produces the protein coat that protects the live virus.
Chicken cells react to the coating because that is the first thing they detect
when the virus invades.
The U.S. Department of
Agriculture has patented Lees techniques. ARS is the chief scientific
research agency of USDA.
Breeders can use the kits to reduce ALV-J infection. They can
take blood samples from chicks to see if the chicks have antibodies indicating
exposure to ALV-J. Lee and other researchers in the United States and abroad
are using the gene for research in developing an ALV-J vaccine.
ALV cannot infect people or animals besides chickens and has
largely been found in the birds raised by primary broiler breeders, the birds
that are the parents of the birds we eat.