Field samples are commonly used to estimate disease prevalence in wild populations. Our confidence in these estimates requires understanding the sensitivity and specificity of the diagnostic tests. We assessed the sensitivity of the most commonly used diagnostic tests for amphibian Ranavirus by infecting salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum; Amphibia, Caudata) with Ambystoma tigrinum virus (ATV) and then sampling euthanized animals (whole animal) and noneuthanized animals (tail clip) at five time intervals after exposure. We used a standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol to screen for ATV. Agreement between test results from whole-animal and tail-clip samples increased with time postexposure. This indicates that the ability to identify infected animals increases following exposure, leading to a more accurate estimate of prevalence in a population. Our results indicate that tail-clip sampling can underestimate the true prevalence of ATV in wild amphibian populations.
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