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Novel molecular diagnostic tests

Patented, novel competitive nucleic acid hybridization
tests of viral detection and assessment of immune
competence in chickens will be modified, improved and
validated for marketing in kit form.

The project is the outcome of research initiated at the UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA and continued at the INSTITUT RUDER BOSKOVIC in Zagreb. The research was done to develop useful molecular diagnostic tests for the poultry industry that would be faster and less expensive than currently available tests. Two tests have been developed: one to diagnose infection with chicken anaemia virus, which is one of the two most important immune-suppressive viruses of chickens, and the other test is to monitor immune status. The technology, including letters patent granted and pending, is owned by the inventors. ZAGREB BIOTEK D.O.O. has been incorporated to promote the commercial development of these and other tests based on the technology. The proposed project aims to make technological improvements to the tests. A further aim is to evaluate the tests in the field. Intensive production of poultry not only creates economy of scale, but also an environment conducive to epidemics of infectious diseases, among which the most important are viral diseases. Vaccines have been developed for most viral diseases but vaccination puts immune pressure on the viruses to mutate and evade immune surveillance. Mutant strains have evolved that are resistant to current vaccines, and efforts to develop effective vaccines for them have had limited success. This is particularly true for the infectious bursal disease virus. Moreover, diagnostic identification of these new strains requires lengthy and expensive molecular methods. The chicken anaemia virus has not mutated, probably because there is no effective vaccine. It causes mortality only in young chicks that do not have maternal antibodies. Breeder companies infect their breeder flocks before they come into lay, and at ages when infection causes little morbidity and no mortality. In this way, maternal antibodies are passed to the chicks and protect them during the first two weeks of life. While this avoids devastating mortality in a flock, it does not prevent infection, and subclinical infection has been shown to result in immune suppression and significant economic losses. Thus, research to find an effective vaccine continues. Chicken anaemia virus and infectious bursal disease viruses are serious immune-suppressive viruses of poultry. Many other viruses are also immune-suppressive but to a lesser degree. Our test for assessing immune status is based on a molecular event compromised by all immune-suppressive viruses that have been examined, including chicken anaemia virus, infectious bursal disease virus and Marek's disease virus. That event is transcription of mRNA for interferon. This is the first hallmark of an acquired immune response and occurs rapidly after an antigenic challenge. Whereas there are other causes of immune suppression, viral immune suppression is by far the greatest problem. We are aware of work by other that has demonstrated amelioration of immune suppression by Newcastle disease virus, a moderately immuno-suppressive virus, by addition of recombinant chicken interferon alpha to drinking water. The therapy is cost-effective. Although this therapy has not been shown to be effective for chicken anaemia and infectious bursal disease virus infections, it is reasonable to believe it will be. Other investigators are searching for additional immune stimulants for poultry, and additional immunotherapeutics should be available in the near future. There is urgency for them because of the failure to develop effective vaccines for chicken anaemia virus and the newly emerged strains of infectious bursal disease virus. The Industry needs an economical, practical test for immune status to identify flocks that will benefit from immune supportive therapy. We have that test, but technological improvements need to be made. Keywords: diagnostic, immuno-suppression, chicken.
Acronym: 
MOLECULAR TESTS
Project ID: 
2 692
Start date: 
15-09-2001
Project Duration: 
42months
Project costs: 
400 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Market Area: 

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.