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In 2013, a novel influenza A virus of subtype H7N9 was transmitted from avian sources to humans in China, causing severe illness and substantial mortality. Rapid and sensitive diagnostic approaches are the basis of epidemiological studies and of utmost importance for the detection of infected humans and animals. We developed various quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-qPCR) assays for (i) the generic detection of the haemagglutinin (HA) gene of H7 viruses or the neuraminidase (NA) gene of N9 viruses, and (ii) the specific detection of HA and NA of the novel avian H7N9/2013 virus. The sensitivity of the newly developed assays was compared with previously published PCRs, and the specificity of all RT-qPCRs was examined using a panel of 42 different H7 and 16 different N9 isolates. Furthermore, we analysed the performance of the RT-qPCR assays with dilution series and diagnostic samples obtained from animal experiments. Our study provides a comprehensive set of RT-qPCR assays for the reliable detection of the novel avian H7N9 virus, with high sensitivity and improved and tailored specificity values compared with published assays. Finally, we also present data about the robustness of a duplex assay for the simultaneous detection of HA and NA of the avian influenza H7N9/2013 virus.


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