Virologic monitoring of avian influenza viruses (AIV) mainly relies on the collection of oropharyngeal, cloacal, or fecal swab samples. The quality of swab samples, therefore, contributes to limitations of the informative value of such monitoring, but the cost of sampling has a great impact on the feasibility of wild bird monitoring studies or poultry surveillance programs. Here, the effect of different swab material and storage conditions on quality and quantity of AIV RNA detection in swab samples by real-time reverse-transcription quantitative PCR has been studied. Two commercial swab products, a rayon-tipped and a flocked nylon type, were compared. Similar suitability of the two swab types, despite a huge price difference, was observed. Superior results by using both types of swab were gained provided that 1) swabs stayed immersed overnight in an appropriate viral transport medium (VTM), or that 2) swabs were vigorously shaken in VTM for at least 1 min and up to 1 hr to release as much trapped virus material as possible. Degradation of RNA over a period of 2 wk for virus-containing samples is negligible when using constant storage conditions at 4 C or 20 C; temperature shifts proved to be more harmful.
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Vol. 56 • No. 4s1