Early detection of highly pathogenic (HP) strains of avian influenza, especially the HP H5N1, is important in terms of controlling and minimizing the spread of the virus. Several rapid antigen detection kits that are able to detect influenza A viruses in less than 1 hr are commercially available, but only a few of them have been evaluated. In this study, four commercially available rapid tests for veterinary usage and two tests for human usage were evaluated and compared. The evaluation of the detection limits of the different tests established with serial dilution of HP H5N1 indicated that most of them have a detection limit of about 105 to 106 50% tissue culture infectious dose/ml. None of the tests was able to detect virus in oral and cloacal swabs 24 hr post–experimental infection of specific-pathogen-free chickens with HP H5N1. However, 48 hr postinfection, almost all of the rapid tests were able to detect infected birds (dead or alive). Moreover, organs were also successful samples for detection of H5N1 with the rapid tests. Unexpectedly, the specificity was not very high for some tests. However, in general in this study, the tests for veterinary usage showed better sensitivity. To conclude, these tests offer good indicative value in the event of an outbreak, but as a result of their low sensitivity and some aspecific reactions, test results always need to be confirmed by other methods.
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Vol. 54 • No. s1