Mycoplasma gallisepticum infects a wide variety of gallineaceous birds including chickens, turkeys, and pheasants. Infection occurs both horizontally and vertically. Thus, control of the spread of M. gallisepticum to noninfected flocks is difficult. Continual monitoring is necessary to identify infected flocks even under the most stringent infectious control practices. Monitoring, however, is usually performed by measuring hemagglutination activity (HA) in serum, an insensitive and variable test. Variability in the HA test arises from differences in agglutination antigen, changes in antigenic profiles of the M. gallisepticum strain, and variability in reading the agglutination reaction. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) are the preferred method of testing because of the ease in obtaining sera and the sensitivity and reproducibility of the assays, but the ELISA suffers from a lack of standardization in the test antigen. The ELISA test will be more easily accepted once the test antigen has been standardized. To this end, we have identified, cloned, and characterized the gene for an antigen that has potential as a species-specific antigen for M. gallisepticum. The gene codes for a 75-kD protein, P75, that is recognized during natural infections. Recombinant P75 is not recognized in immunoblots by convalescent sera produced in chickens infected with Mycoplasma synoviae, Mycoplasma gallinarum, and Mycoplasma gallinaceum or in turkeys infected with Mycoplasma meleagridis.
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Vol. 46 • No. 4