The Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory maintains approximately 60 strains of Marek’s disease and avian retroviruses from poultry and other avian species collected primarily from the United States. These viruses have been used to develop and validate diagnostics including Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) and reverse transcription PCR (RT PCR), to develop new vaccines for Marek’s disease, and to conduct basic studies on molecular characteristics and gene function of avian tumor viruses.
Using this collection, the ARS developed overlapping cosmid clone and Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) technologies that allowed studies on gene function of Marek’s disease virus through gene deletion. The ARS also developed monoclonal antibodies against Marek’s disease, avian leukosis and reticuloendotheliosis viruses. In addition, the ARS developed a more sensitive and specific test (cell culture-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)) for detection of avian leukosis virus, which is now the official test used by the USDA APHIS Center for Veterinary Biologics for screening live-virus poultry vaccines for avian leukosis virus contamination.
This ARS collection of monoclonal antibodies is considered a unique source of these important reagents and has been widely used by scientists in industry, government and academia for specific diagnosis of avian tumor viruses.