Comparison of ear notch immunohistochemistry, ear notch antigen-capture ELISA, and buffy coat virus isolation for detection of calves persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus


Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory, Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82070, USA.

Two techniques performed on skin biopsy samples (ear notches), immunohistochemistry (IHC) and antigen-capture ELISA (AgELISA), were compared for detection of bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) persistent infection (PI) in 559 Angus calves between the ages of 1 and 5 months. The calves also were tested for BVDV infection using virus isolation (VI) and reverse transcription (RT)-PCR on buffy coat samples and for antibodies to BVDV types la and 2 by serum neutralization (SN). Sixty-seven of 559 (12.0%) calves tested positive at initial screening by IHC, AgELISA, or VI, and all 67 were kept for a minimum of 3 months and retested monthly by IHC, AgELISA, VI, RT-PCR, and SN. Of the calves positive at initial screening, 59/67 (88.1%) were determined PI and 8/67 (11.9%) were determined acutely infected. Both IHC and AgELISA detected 100% of PI calves; however, IHC and AgELISA also detected 6 and 8 acutely infected calves, respectively, at initial screening. Furthermore, IHC and AgELISA continued to detect 3 and 4 acutely infected calves, respectively, 3 months after initial screening. Three acutely infected calves had IHC staining indistinguishable from PI calves at initial screening. Both IHC and AgELISA are accurate at detecting BVDV-infected calves, but veterinarians and producers should be advised that both tests detect some calves acutely infected with BVDV in addition to PI animals. Repeat testing using VI or RT-PCR on buffy coat samples should be performed at 30 days after initial screening to conclusively discriminate between acute and PI.


Cornish TE, van Olphen AL, Cavender JL, Edwards JM, et al.: J Vet Diagn Invest 17: 110-117, 2005.