Comparison of tests for detection of bovine viral diarrhea virus in diagnostic samples

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Correspondence: 1Corresponding Author: Misty A. Edmondson, 1500 Wire Road, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, AL 36849.

Currently, a variety of tests are used to detect bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) in persistently infected (PI) cattle. These tests include immunohistochemical staining (IHC), antigen capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ACE), virus isolation (VI), and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). However, a lack of methods standardization could compromise the ability to consistently identify animals infected with BVDV. This study evaluated the diagnostic proficiency of current methods for detecting BVDV in infected cattle using intra- and interlaboratory comparisons. Samples were collected from 4 animals more than 7 months of age (2 BVDV negative animals, a PI animal, and a PI animal that previously lacked detectable virus in serum as determined by VI). Samples were submitted to 23 participating diagnostic laboratories using the respective laboratory’s standard submission protocol. Samples collected for submission included: 1) serum for ACE, RT-PCR, and VI; 2) whole blood for RT-PCR and VI; and 3) skin biopsies for ACE and IHC. The ACE performed on skin provided the greatest consistency in detecting positive samples and a perfect level of agreement among laboratories. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and IHC performed well by correctly identifying  85% of samples positive for BVDV. Virus isolation performed on serum yielded the lowest consistency in detecting positive samples and the lowest level of agreement. The level of agreement between laboratories for detecting BVDV in persistently infected cattle ranged from perfect to less than expected by chance. The variation between laboratories suggests a need for training opportunities in standardized laboratory protocols and proficiency testing.

Key Words: Bovine viral diarrhea virus • diagnostic tests • persistent infection


Edmondson MA1, Givens MD, Walz PH, Gard JA, et al.: J Vet Diagn Invest 19: 376-381, 2007.