The study was conducted to develop methodology for least-cost strategies for using polymerase chain reaction (PCR)/probe testing of pooled blood samples to identify animals in a herd persistently infected with bovine viral diarrhea virus (BVDV). Cost was estimated for 5 protocols using Monte Carlo simulations for herd prevalences of BVDV persistent infection (BVDV-PI) ranging from 0.5% to 3%, assuming a cost for a PCR/probe test of $20. The protocol associated with the least cost per cow involved an initial testing of pools followed by repooling and testing of positive pools. For a herd prevalence of 1%, the least cost per cow was $2.64 (95% prediction interval = $1.72, $3.68), where pool sizes for the initial and repooled testing were 20 and 5 blood samples per pool, respectively. Optimization of the least cost for pooled-sample testing depended on how well a presumed prevalence of BVDV-PI approximated the true prevalence of BVDV infection in the herd. As prevalence increased beyond 3%, the least cost increased, thereby diminishing the competitive benefit of pooled testing. The protocols presented for sample pooling have general application to screening or surveillance using a sensitive diagnostic test to detect very low prevalence diseases or pathogens in flocks or herds.
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