Multiple diagnostic tests to identify cattle with Bovine viral diarrhea virus and duration of positive test results in persistently infected cattle


Several tests for Bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV) were applied to samples collected monthly from December 20, 2005, through November 27, 2006 (day 0 to day 342) from 12 persistently infected (PI) cattle with BVDV subtypes found in US cattle: BVDV-1a, BVDV-1b, and BVDV-2a. The samples included clotted blood for serum, nasal swabs, and fresh and formalin-fixed ear notches. The tests were as follows: titration of infectious virus in serum and nasal swabs; antigen-capture (AC) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), or ACE, on serum, nasal swabs, and fresh ear notches; gel-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing of serum, nasal swabs, and fresh ear notches; immunohistochemical (IHC) testing of formalin-fixed ear notches; and serologic testing for BVDV antibodies in serum. Of the 12 animals starting the study, 3 died with mucosal disease. The ACE and IHC tests on ear notches had positive results throughout the study, as did the ACE and PCR tests on serum. There was detectable virus in nasal swabs from all the cattle throughout the study except for a few samples that were toxic to cell cultures. The serum had a virus titer ≥ log10 1.60 in all samples from all the cattle except for 3 collections from 1 animal. Although there were several equivocal results, the PCR test most often had positive results. The BVDV antibodies were due to vaccination or exposure to heterologous strains and did not appear to interfere with any BVDV test. These findings illustrate that PI cattle may be identified by several tests, but differentiation of PI cattle from cattle with acute BVDV infection requires additional testing, especially of blood samples and nasal swabs positive on initial testing. Also, calves PI with BVDV are continual shedders of infectious virus, as shown by the infectivity of nasal swabs over the 11-mo study.

Fulton RW, Hessman BE, Ridpath JF, Johnson BJ, Burge LJ, Kapil S, Braziel B, Kautz K, and Reck A. Can J Vet Res. 2009 April; 73(2): 117–124.