The 1985 outbreak of high-pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI) in Victoria, Australia, took 5 days to confirm by standard laboratory tests, during which time infected chickens continued excreting virus, thus creating the opportunity for transmission to other farms. An immunofluorescence test for the detection of viral antigen in tissue impression smears was evaluated as a rapid diagnostic test for HPAI virus infections of poultry. Several test configurations were compared for background reactions and strength of fluorescence, with the optimum combination found to be an influenza A group-specific monoclonal antibody, detected by an anti-mouse fluorescein isothiocyanate conjugate. Immunohistochemical examination of tissues from chickens experimentally infected with low-pathogenicity and HPAI viruses identified the pancreas as the organ most consistently containing high concentrations of HPAI viral antigen. This test has since been used in Australia in the rapid laboratory confirmation of three avian influenza outbreaks and in showing that numerous other suspect cases were not caused by avian influenza.
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