Real time reverse transcriptase (RRT)–polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the detection of Eurasian H5 avian influenza virus (AIV) isolates was adapted from an existing protocol, optimized, and validated using a number of genetically diverse H5 isolates (n = 51). These included 34 “Asian lineage” H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses (2004–2006), plus 12 other H5 isolates from poultry outbreaks and wild birds in the Eastern Hemisphere (1996–2005). All 51 were positive by H5 Eurasian RRT-PCR. Specificity was assessed by testing representative isolates from all other AI virus subtypes (n = 52), non-AI avian pathogens (n = 8), plus a negative population of clinical specimens derived from AI-uninfected wild birds and poultry (n = 604); all were negative by H5 Eurasian RRT-PCR. RNA was directly extracted from suspect HPAI H5N1 clinical specimens (Africa, Asia, and Europe; 2005–2006; n = 58) from dead poultry and wild birds, and 55 recorded as positive by H5 Eurasian RRT-PCR: Fifty-one of these 55 were in agreement with positive AIV isolation in embryonated chickens' eggs. H5 Eurasian RRT-PCR was invaluable in H5 outbreak diagnosis and management by virtue of its rapidity and high degree of sensitivity and specificity. This method provides a platform for automation that can be applied for large-scale intensive investigations, including surveillance.

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