Real-Time PCR vs. PCR
Most people are familiar with PCR technology and its advantages. Since 1992, R.A.L., Inc., has been performing avian diagnostics utilizing standard PCR methods. With the relocation of our laboratory to Dallas, Texas, in 2002, we took the opportunity to upgrade our equipment and services. These changes brought many improvements in quality, services and accuracy. Perhaps the single most important change has been new state-of-the-art equipment and associated technology called Real-Time PCR.
Real-Time PCR is the most recent advancement to PCR technology and has many advantages. For the first time, we have the ability to actually quantify the amount of pathogen present. This ability has been both long overdue and sorely needed. Samples are compared to known positive controls on each and every cycle. With standard PCR, your results are only positive or negative. A low level measured by standard PCR may or may not be detected, depending on the sensitivity of equipment and technology, as well as technician skills. If detected and reported as positive, veterinarians and clients have no starting point and can only envision the worst-case scenario. If the same sample is reported as negative, there is a false sense of security, as this animal may still be an intermittent shedder. Real-Time PCR allows us to compare the variable states of infection. By knowing where within the disease process these animals are can help determine a plan of intelligent action. Also, in the event of an outbreak, Real-Time PCR can effectively monitor the success of clean-up efforts.
Real-Time PCR monitoring reduces possible contamination, provides results more quickly and saves technician time. All this adds up to greater sensitivity, faster results and cost savings that are passed on directly to you! Thanks to Real-Time PCR and volume, R.A.L. now performs testing six days per week with up to three runs daily. Samples sent overnight can be tested and reported back to you the same day they are received in the lab. All results are faxed back within 24 hours, and hard copies are also mailed, all at no additional cost! New technology and great clients make for a successful and growing industry. We thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to many more successful years in the future.
©Research Associates Laboratory
Environmental Screening for Avian Diseases
With the advent of PCR testing, it has never been easier to test for the presence of many dangerous diseases of birds. PCR testing looks for the DNA of specific organisms to determine their presence. As DNA is extremely stable, residual components can be detected long after the organism entered the environment (or even non-viable). These new tests can accurately detect pathogenic organisms for a year or longer.
Testing is available to virtually anyone wishing to find out what is in their environment. Single pet owners, hobbyists and breeders can all screen for a variety of potential deadly diseases with ease. Sample taking requires absolutely no handling of animals and is totaly pain free. Sampling techniques can be performed with a minimum of skills. Armed with some basic common sense, almost anyone can be easily taught to sample properly.
If more than one area is to be swabbed, open each swab as needed, take sample as above and replace back into holder before opening additional swabs.
The best places to swab are areas near birds which have not recently been cleaned: walls behind cages, corners of cages or trays, fans, HVAC vents and filters, etc.
Armed with the latest technology called Real-Time PCR, we can actually measure the amount of organism present. R.A.L., Inc., pioneered the use of Real-Time PCR beginning in 2002. Virtually no one has our experience in running and interpreting Real-Time PCR results. We have accurately analysed well over 50,000 samples for a variety of organisms with Real-Time PCR.
Understanding Your Results
Real-Time PCR results are reported back as Positive, Low Level Positive or Negative, as opposed to just positive or negative with regular PCR testing. Real-Time allows us to determine if in fact a negative result is truly negative, as opposed to a failed test by regular methods which can result in a positive being falsely reported as negative. One of Real-Time PCR's most exciting benefits is the the ability to determine how much organism is present. It can help monitor clean-up efforts as well as point to the original source of contamination.
By taking occasional environmental samples, one test can monitor a large area and number of birds at one time. As many organisms are intermittently shed, one single swab should not be considered an absolute result. Many people screen the aviaries every six months to insure no surprises are awaiting them. As long as no new birds are added, screening for 1½ to 2 years should indicate a "clean facility" for diseases tested against.
©Research Associates Laboratory