The purpose of the current study was to identify potential ligands and develop a novel diagnostic test to highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus (HPAI), subtype H5N1 viruses using phage display technology. The H5N1 viruses were used as an immobilized target in a biopanning process using a 12-mer phage display random peptide library. After five rounds of panning, three phages expressing peptides HAWDPIPARDPF, AAWHLIVALAPN or ATSHLHVRLPSK had a specific binding activity to H5N1 viruses were isolated. Putative binding motifs to H5N1 viruses were identified by DNA sequencing. In terms of the minimum quantity of viruses, the phage-based ELISA was better than antiserum-based ELISA and a manual, semi-quantitative endpoint RT-PCR for detecting H5N1 viruses. More importantly, the selected phages bearing the specific peptides to H5N1 viruses were capable of differentiating this virus from other avian viruses in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays
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