The effect of pooling 11 or 5 oropharyngeal (O/P) swabbings on detecting avian influenza virus (AIV) by real-time reverse transcription (RRT)–PCR was evaluated. The model used for the evaluation was designed to minimize viral load and, thus, assess the effect of the pooling on detection. Two-week-old broiler chickens were inoculated via the intranasal route with the low pathogenicity chicken/Maryland/Minh Ma/04 H7N2 strain or remained uninoculated. On days 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 14 postinoculation (PI), O/P swabbings were collected from individual infected birds and pooled with either 10 or 4 O/P swabs from uninfected broilers to produce 10 replicate pools of 11 or 5 swabbings, respectively. AIV was readily detected (80%–100%) by RRT-PCR in the pools of 11 and pools of 5 swabbings from days 2 through 5 PI. Detection in pools of both types decreased to similar levels on day 7 (40% for the pools of 11 and 50% for the pools of 5). AIV was not detected on day 9, 11, and 14 PI in pools of either size. On a given sample day PI, mean cycle threshold (Ct) values were consistently higher (lower genome levels) in the pools of 11 compared to the pools of 5. These differences were statistically significant on days 3 and 5 PI, yet Ct values associated with both types of pools were clearly interpretable as AIV positive.
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Vol. 56 • No. 1