Detection of bovine leukemia virus in cattle by the polymerase chain reaction

Michael P Murtaugh, G. F. Lin, D. L. Haggard, A. F. Weber, J. C. Meiske

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42 Scopus citations


Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) is widely distributed in U.S. cattle herds. It infects B lymphocytes and causes neoplastic disease in 5-10% of infected animals. Direct economic losses are incurred as a result of death, reduced milk production and condemnation at slaughter. Thus the identification of cattle infected with BLV is of significant concern to the U.S. cattle industry. For this reason, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification was used to examine seropositive and seronegative cattle for the presence of BLV DNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Using an amplification protocol able to detect 1 viral genome in 100 000 cells, BLV was not detected in 7 seronegative cattle in an infected herd. BLV sequences were detected in 13 of 18 seropositive animals with various levels of infection as determined by in vitro lymphocyte culture and electron microscopy. An active infection was demonstrated in one animal, based on the presence of viral RNA. These findings indicate that PCR is a sensitive method for the detection of BLV in cattle and provides new information regarding the dynamics of the infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Virological Methods
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 1991


  • BLV
  • Bovine leukemia virus
  • PCR
  • Polymerase chain reaction


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