Peste des petits ruminants virus (PPRv) antigen was detected in conjunctival epithelial cells obtained from goats in the early or late stage of the disease by the use of a specific monoclonal antibody (mAb) to PPRV in an immunofluorescent antibody test (EFAT). The affected goats were sampled during an outbreak of peste des petits ruminants in Eritrea. Syncytia were also observed in some smears, consistent with a morbillivirus infection, but the IFAT was more sensitive than staining for syncytia in the detection of viral antigen, the two tests giving 63 per cent and 40 per cent of animals, respectively, with positive tests. Positive immunofluorescence was observed in samples from goats in the early and late stages of the disease, but was not observed with a specific rinderpest mAb or with conjunctival smears from uninfected animals. It is concluded that preparation of conjunctival smears for staining for syncytia is a simple procedure which can be applied in the field, and by use of a specific mAb PPRV infection can be rapidly confirmed and differentiated from rinderpest.
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