Reverse transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) is a unique gene amplification method that can be completed within 35 min at 62.5 degrees C. In the present study, RT-LAMP was used to develop a rapid and sensitive laboratory diagnostic system for the H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The sensitivity of the system was 0.1-0.01 plaque-forming units per reaction for HPAI-H5N1 viruses belonging to the genetically and antigenically distinct clade 1, represented by A/Vietnam/JP1203/2004, and clade 2, represented by A/Indonesia/JP283/2006. This RT-LAMP sensitivity is 10-fold higher than the sensitivity of standard one-step RT-PCR. By using viral RNAs extracted from avian influenza viruses of H1-H15 hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes and human pathogenic respiratory viruses, it was confirmed that the RT-LAMP system amplifies specifically RNA of the H5 subtype virus. The system detected H5-HA genes in throat swabs collected from humans as well as from wild birds. These results suggest that the present RT-LAMP system is a useful diagnostic tool for surveillance of recent outbreaks of the HPAI-H5N1 virus.