Population-level sampling based on qPCR detection of infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV) in poultry dust can be used to assess ILT vaccination outcomes following mass administration in drinking water. We report on the field application of this approach to assess the success of vaccine administration and its use in ILT outbreak control in meat chickens. In Study 1, dust samples were collected from 26 meat chicken flocks at 0, 4, 7, 14, and 21 days post drinking water vaccination (DPV) given between 7 to 13 days of age with the Serva or A20 live attenuated ILT vaccines. Unexpectedly, ILTV DNA was detected in dust samples collected prior to vaccination in 22/26 flocks. Typing revealed that the detected ILTV was different from the vaccine virus. To determine whether the detected ILTV DNA was from active infection or carryover of a noninfectious virus, Study 2 was implemented in 14 additional flocks with dust samples collected at 0, 7, 14, and 21 DPV and tracheal swabs collected from 15 birds/flock at 0 and 21 DPV. The results indicated that there was active infection with ILTV in those flocks before vaccination. This approach contributed to a statewide control program resulting in the eradication of ILT from South Australia as confirmed by negative ILTV test results for dust samples from 50 flocks and the absence of clinical ILT. These findings show that ILTV infection prior to vaccination is common in outbreak situations and that dust samples must be collected at 0 and 7 DPV for meaningful interpretation of vaccination outcomes and ILTV status. Comparatively low-cost dust testing during an outbreak, coupled with typing information, greatly assisted with decision making and control strategies during a major outbreak, including confirmation of the absence of infection in the final stages.

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