Methods for the isolation of DNA from cell-associated herpesviruses have often yielded samples contaminated with host cellular DNA. Because 2nd and 3rd generation nucleotide sequencers do not rely on molecular cloning of viral DNA, there is a need to develop methods for isolating highly pure DNA from these viruses. The cell-associated alphaherpesvirus Marek's disease virus (MDV-1) was chosen as a test virus for the development of such methodologies. The genomes of six MDV-1 strains have previously been sequenced using both Sanger dideoxy sequencing and 454 Life Sciences pyrosequencing. These genomes largely represent cell culture adapted strains due to the difficulty in obtaining large quantities of DNA from true low passage isolates. There are clear advantages in analyzing MDV-1 virus taken directly from infected tissues or low passage isolates since serial passage attenuates the virus. Procedures using an ATP-dependent exonuclease and Phi29 DNA polymerase to degrade host DNA selectively and amplify MDV-1 DNA enzymatically from total DNA preps were attempted without much success. Ultimately, however, a protocol was developed for purification of low passage MDV-1 DNA from infected avian fibroblasts. The method builds upon and extends available protocols based on hypotonic lysis to release virus particles followed by micrococcal nuclease treatment to degrade cellular DNA. Intact high-molecular weight viral DNA is purified away from an excess of degraded cellular DNA using polyethylene glycol precipitation. 454-based pyrosequencing of viral DNA purified in this manner has generated data containing as little as 2.3% host sequence. On average, DNA preparations were 70% (+/-20%) pure yielding a genome coverage range of 25-74-fold.