Increasing use of Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) live vaccines has led to a need for a rapid test for differentiation of MG field strains from the live vaccine strains ts-11 and 6/85. We examined the differentiating potential of diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers targeted to the gene mgc2, encoding a cytadherence-related surface protein uniquely present in MG. The mgc2-PCR diagnostic primers are specific for MG in tests of all avian mycoplasmas or bacteria present in the chicken trachea and are sensitive enough to readily detect MG in tracheal swabs from field outbreaks. Differentiation of vaccine strain ts-11 was based on identification of restriction enzyme sites in the 300-base-pair (bp) mgc2-PCR amplicon present in ts-11 and missing in MG isolates from field outbreaks in Israel. Restriction sites for the enzymes HaeII and SfaN1 were identified in the amplified region in strain ts-11 and were not found in 28 field isolates of MG, comprising a representative cross section of all the MG isolates from the period 1997–2003. In practice, differential diagnosis of MG is achieved within 1 day of submission of tracheal swab samples by mgc2-PCR amplification and restriction of the amplicon with HaeII, giving a 270-bp fragment for ts-11 or no restriction for other MG strains tested. Application of the mgc2-PCR–restriction fragment length polymorphism (mgc2-PCR-RFLP) assay enabled differential diagnosis of both components of a mixture of ts-11 and non-ts-11 DNA, detecting the field strain in the presence of a large excess of ts-11. The test was successfully applied in vivo for monitoring vaccinates in a ts-11 vaccine trial. In principle, the test may also be used to identify the 6/85 vaccine strain, which yields a 237-bp product, readily differentiated from the approximately 300-bp PCR product of all other strains tested. Further testing of field isolates will be necessary to determine the applicability of this test in the United States and other countries.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2