A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was developed and optimized for the detection of avian encephalomyelitis virus (AEV). A pair of primers was prepared based on the VP2 gene of the structural protein P1 region of the AEV genome. An avian encephalomyelitis virus-specific 619-base pair cDNA product was amplified by these primers from five reference/field strains of AEVs but not from 10 other avian pathogenic viruses and bacteria. The RT-PCR assay developed in this study was found to be sensitive and specific with as little as 10 pg of avian encephalomyelitis virus RNA detected using gel electrophoresis. Furthermore, AEV-RT-PCR was able to detect AE virus from chicken embryo brain at 3 days postinoculation as compared with the AE agar gel precipitation test (AGP), which required up to 11 days of incubation in the embryos.