Healthy young turkeys.
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A Quicker, Cheaper Test for Turkey Viruses
Durham May 23, 2006
A new, highly sensitive diagnostic test to detect viruses associated
with poult enteritis complex, or PEC, has been developed by Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) scientists in
Athens, Ga. This disease of young turkeys causes diarrhea, poor weight gain
and, in some cases, high mortality.
Kapczynski developed the test in a format that allows the detection of
several types of viruses at one time. Spackman works in the ARS
Poultry Viral Diseases Research Unit, and Kapczynski is in the
and Emerging Avian Viral Disease Research Unit. Both units are part of the
Poultry Research Laboratory. The scientists collaborated on the research
with Holly Sellers of the University of
The test relies on a molecular technique called real-time reverse
transcription- polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR), which is a highly sensitive
and specific method for detecting viral RNA. Current diagnostic methods for
PEC-associated viruses have limitations because of poor analytic specificity
The researchers inoculated turkey poults with each of the
PEC-associated viruses and later collected intestinal tissue samples and
cloacal swabs from the experimentally infected birds. The RRT-PCR test showed
high sensitivity, accurately detecting the target viruses in both the tissues
While intestinal samples have previously been essential to making a
definitive PEC diagnosis, the researchers found that cloacal sampleswhich
are easier to collect and processwere just as suitable for testing. Using
them will not only save time and money, it will also eliminate the need to
euthanize birds for sampling.
The PEC-test technology has been provided to several laboratories for
diagnostic use, and the research team is now working on adapting the RRT-PCR
technique to diagnose related diseases in chickens.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures principal scientific research agency.