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PLoS One. 2016 Jan 25;11(1):e0147841. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147841. eCollection 2016.

Prevalence of Neutralizing Antibodies to Japanese Encephalitis Virus among High-Risk Age Groups in South Korea, 2010.

Lee EJ1,2, Cha GW1,2, Ju YR1,2, Han MG1,2, Lee WJ1,2, Jeong YE1,2,3.

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Division of Arboviruses, National Institute of Health, Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cheongju-si, Chungcheongbuk-do, Korea.
Japanese Encephalitis Regional Reference Laboratory for the WHO Western Pacific Region, Cheongju-si, Chungcheongbuk-do, Korea.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Graduate School of Hallym University, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do, Korea.


After an extensive vaccination policy, Japanese encephalitis (JE) was nearly eliminated since the mid-1980s in South Korea. Vaccination in children shifted the affected age of JE patients from children to adults. However, an abrupt increase in JE cases occurred in 2010, and this trend has continued. The present study aimed to investigate the prevalence of neutralizing antibodies to the JE virus (JEV) among high-risk age groups (≥40 years) in South Korea. A plaque reduction neutralization test was conducted to evaluate the prevalence of neutralizing antibodies to JEV in 945 subjects within four age groups (30-39, 40-49, 50-59, and 60-69 years) in 10 provinces. Of the 945 enrolled subjects, 927 (98.1%) exhibited antibodies against JEV. No significant differences were found in the prevalence of neutralizing antibodies according to sex, age, or occupation. However, there were significant differences in the plaque reduction rate according to age and occupation; oldest age group had a higher reduction rate, and subjects who were employed in agriculture or forestry also had a higher value than the other occupations. We also found that three provinces (Gangwon, Jeonnam, and Gyeongnam) had a relatively lower plaque reduction rate than the other locations. In addition, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were conducted to determine recent viral infections and 12 (1.3%) subjects were found to have been recently infected by the virus [corrected]. In conclusion, the present study clearly indicated that the prevalence of neutralizing antibodies has been maintained at very high levels among adult age groups owing to vaccination or natural infections, or both. In the future, serosurveillance should be conducted periodically using more representative samples to better understand the population-level immunity to JE in South Korea.

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