DNA probes specific for Mycoplasma gallisepticum and M. synoviae were selected from genomic libraries prepared in the pUC13 vector. The probes hybridized with the DNA of a wide spectrum of strains within each homologous species, but did not react with the heterologous species or with DNA from any other avian mycoplasma or bacteria tested. Experimental infection and contact exposure of chickens to M. gallisepticum served as models to test the effectiveness of the DNA probe in diagnosis as compared with serological and culture detection methods carried out in parallel. A correlation was generally found between the level of M. gallisepticum in tracheal swabs and the effectiveness of the probe, although a predictably reactive level of mycoplasmas was not always detected. Treatment of clinical specimens with acetylcysteine to disrupt mucus improved the detection rate. Dot-blot hybridization with probe pMG4 enabled positive identification of M. gallisepticum at an early stage of infection, prior to the development of a serological response in the infected chicken. Results are obtainable within 4 days of sampling, much more rapidly than culture, and also in clinical specimens from which mycoplasma isolation is impossible, such as carcasses. The results indicate that the use of DNA probes for the early and rapid detection of M. gallisepticum infection is feasible; a development which can replace laborious culture techniques and less effective serological methods, and thus reduce the time required for diagnosis.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a grant from the United States-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD). We thank Mordechai Wormser for technical assistance.