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J Clin Microbiol. 2005 Jul;43(7):3227-36.

Comparative analysis of immunoglobulin M (IgM) capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using virus-like particles or virus-infected mouse brain antigens to detect IgM antibody in sera from patients with evident flaviviral infections.

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Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522, USA.


The use of immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (MAC-ELISA) serves as a valuable tool for the diagnosis of acute flaviviral infections, since IgM antibody titers are detectable early, peak at about 2 weeks postinfection, and subsequently decline to lower levels over the next few months. Traditionally, virus-infected tissue culture or suckling mouse brain (SMB) has been the source of viral antigens used in the assay. In an effort to provide a reliable source of standardized viral antigens for serodiagnosis of the medically important flaviviruses, we have developed a eukaryotic plasmid vector to express the premembrane/membrane and envelope proteins which self-assemble into noninfectious virus-like particles (VLPs). In addition to the plasmids for Japanese encephalitis virus, West Nile virus (WNV), St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV), and dengue virus type 2 (DENV-2) reported earlier, we recently constructed the DENV-1, -3, and -4 VLP expression plasmids. Three blind-coded human serum panels were assembled from patients having recent DENV, SLEV, and WNV infections to assess the sensitivity and specificity of the MAC-ELISA using VLPs or SMB antigens. In addition, serum specimens from patients infected with either Powassan virus or La Crosse encephalitis virus were used to evaluate the cross-reactivity of seven mosquito-borne viral antigens. The results of the present studies showed higher sensitivity when using SLEV and WNV VLPs and higher specificity when using SLEV, WNV, and the mixture of DENV-1 to -4 VLPs in the MAC-ELISA than when using corresponding SMB antigens. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, a plot of the sensitivity versus false positive rate (100 - specificity), was applied to discriminate the accuracy of tests comparing the use of VLPs and SMB antigen. The measurement of assay performance by the ROC analysis indicated that there were statistically significant differences in assay performance between DENV and WNV VLPs and the respective SMB antigens. Additionally, VLPs had a lower cutoff positive/negative ratio than corresponding SMB antigens when employed for the confirmation of current infections. The VLPs also performed better than SMB antigens in the MAC-ELISA, as indicated by a higher positive prediction value and positive likelihood ratio test. Cell lines continuously secreting these VLPs are therefore a significantly improved source of serodiagnostic antigens compared to the traditional sources of virus-infected tissue culture or suckling mouse brain.

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