SUMMARY. In this report, we describe a real-time reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR) diagnostic test for infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) with the use of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) technology. Two primers that amplify a 383-base pair product between nucleotide positions 703 and 1086 relative to the start codon for the S1 gene of the Massachusetts 41 virus were designed and used to amplify the Beaudette, Massachusetts 41, Florida 18288, Connecticut, Iowa 97, Arkansas DPI, CA/NE95/99, DE/072/92, and GA/0470/98 strains of IBV. The primers were specific and did not amplify New Castle disease virus, Mycoplasma spp., or infectious laryngotracheitis virus. For RRT-PCR by FRET, an anchor probe conjugated to fluorescein and a detection probe conjugated to a red fluorophore were designed to anneal to a hypervariable region within the 383-base pair product. The level of sensitivity was 1 × 104 RNA molecules used as starting template. After amplification, a melting curve analysis was conducted to specifically identify IBV types. Because of sequence differences in the annealing position of the detection probe, the Arkansas, Connecticut, Beaudette, and Massachusetts 41 strains could be differentiated. No fluorescence was observed for the DE/072/92 and GA/0470/98 viruses with the anchor and detection probes. When the Beaudette strain was examined, two melting peaks were observed at 44 C and 51 C, indicating a quasispecies in that laboratory strain of IBV. Routine typing of vaccine strains of IBV was possible with this technology, but high standard deviations associated with the melting curve analysis of the FRET probes described herein made it difficult to use this test reliably for routine typing of IBV field isolates.
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Vol. 47 • No. 3