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J Virol Methods. 2008 Oct;153(1):43-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jviromet.2008.06.016. Epub 2008 Jul 30.

Increased sensitivity for detecting avian influenza-specific antibodies by a modified hemagglutination inhibition assay using horse erythrocytes.

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Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, State Key Laboratory of Pathogen and Biosecurity, 20 Dong-Da Street, Fengtai District, Beijing 100071, China.


The hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay is a widely used serological method to measure the levels of protective antibody responses against influenza viruses. However, the traditional HI assay which uses chicken erythrocytes is not sufficiently sensitive for detecting HI antibodies specific to avian influenza viruses. Previously, it was demonstrated that employing an assay using horse erythrocytes was able to increase the sensitivity of HI assay. The current report describes further optimization of this modified HI assay. It was shown that this method was able to increase detection of HI activities in rabbit sera immunized with H5 HA antigens, and proved that this increased sensitivity is useful in dissecting the strain specificity of HI antibody responses. In addition, the modified HI assay using horse erythrocytes increased the sensitivity of detecting HI antibodies specific for three major serotypes of avian influenza viruses, H5, H7 and H9, in people who may have asymptomatic infection with avian influenza viruses. Based on these results, the optimized use of horse erythrocytes should be standard practice for detecting HI activities against avian influenza viruses.

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