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J Clin Microbiol. 1985 Feb;21(2):217-21.

Comparison of standard tube and shell vial cell culture techniques for the detection of cytomegalovirus in clinical specimens.


A monoclonal antibody was used to detect an early antigen of cytomegalovirus (CMV) by fluorescence 16 h after inoculation of MRC-5 monolayers in 1-dram (ca. 3.7-ml) shell vials and low-speed centrifugation. Of 770 specimens (urine, blood, lung tissue, sputum) processed in shell vials, 124 (16%) were positive for the virus at 16 h postinfection. CMV was isolated in standard tube cell cultures (average time, 9 days) from only 88 specimens, but there were no instances (with the exception of 2 blood specimens) in which CMV was recovered from tube cultures but not from shell vials. Additional specimens from 18 patients were positive in the shell vial assay but negative in the conventional tube cell culture assay. Other specimens from 14 of the 18 patients yielded CMV in conventional tube cell cultures. Of the 4 patients from whom CMV was not recovered from other specimens by conventional tube cell culturing, all had evidence of recent CMV infections, as indicated by a fourfold or greater rise in antibody titer. The specificity of the shell vial assay for the detection of CMV is supported by assays of other specimens from the same patients yielding the virus or serological evidence indicating recent infections, the known enhancement of CMV detection after centrifugation of the shell vials, and the distinct and easily recognizable fluorescence confined to the nuclei of CMV-infected cells. Our data indicate that the shell vial cell culture assay for the detection of CMV is as specific as and more sensitive than conventional tube cell culturing for the diagnosis of CMV infections.

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