Lymphoproliferative disease virus (LPDV) is a retrovirus that infects wild and domestic turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). The first cases of LPDV in the United States were diagnosed in 2009, and subsequent surveillance has revealed the virus to be widespread in wild turkey populations throughout the eastern half of the country. More research is needed to determine whether LPDV is having a negative effect on turkey populations, but progress has been impeded by the lack of a simple method for diagnosing the virus in living birds. Infected animals may appear asymptomatic, and diagnostics currently rely on tissue or bone marrow, which can be difficult to obtain. This study investigated the reliability of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect LPDV in whole blood, compared with previous methods using buffy coat (concentrated white blood cells) and bone marrow. Paired samples of whole blood and buffy coat were collected from 137 live turkeys and paired samples of whole blood and bone marrow were collected from 32 turkeys postmortem. Compared with buffy coat, whole blood had 97% sensitivity and 100% specificity. When compared with bone marrow, whole blood had 100% sensitivity and 89% specificity. Both comparisons had a high degree of agreement using Cohen's kappa statistic. Based on these results, PCR of whole blood provides detection of LPDV in living birds that is on par with both buffy coat and bone marrow.
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