Journal of Hygiene

Research Article

Comparison of techniques for demonstrating antibodies to Rift Valley fever virus

R. Swanepoela1, J. K. Struthersa1, M. J. Erasmusa1, S. P. Shepherda1, G. M. McGillivraya1, B. J. Erasmusa2 and B. J. H. Barnarda2

a1 Department of Virology, University of the Witwatersrand and National Institute for Virology, Sandringham 2131, Republic of South Africa

a2 Veterinary Research Institute, Onderstepoort 0110, Republic of South Africa


Nine serological techniques were compared by monitoring the response to infection with Rift Valley fever (RVF) virus in three sheep. Antibodies were monitored daily for the first 14 days after infection, then weekly and later fortnightly up to week 24. The earliest antibody response was detected in one sheep on day 3 by a plaque reduction neutralization test, and by day 6 antibodies were demonstrable in all three sheep by haemagglutination-inhibition, reversed passive haemagglutination-inhibition, immunodiffusion, indirect immunofluorescence (IF), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and neutralization of cytopathic effect in cell cultures. Antibodies were demonstrable by complement fixation on day 8 at the earliest. IF and the two neutralization techniques produced the highest titres, but all tests could be used satisfactorily for the serological diagnosis of RVF. Inactivated antigen could be used for all except the neutralization tests. A radioimmunoassay technique using 125I-labelIed staphylococcal protein A detected antibodies on day 8 at the earliest and produced lower mean titres than some of the other techniques. This was probably because sheep immunoglobulins bind protein A poorly.

(Received November 01 1985)

(Accepted February 03 1986)