a1 Department of Virology, University of the Witwatersrand; and National Institute for Virology, Sandringham, Republic of South Africa
Several methods for demonstrating antibody to Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus were compared on serum samples taken from 101 patients during the acute stage of illness and at intervals for up to 59 months thereafter, with emphasis on early detection of the immune response. The deaths of 23 patients on days 5–14 of illness were ascribed to the effects of the disease; two patients died later from other causes. Very few of the patients who died from the acute illness mounted an antibody response detectable by the methods tested. Four patients who died and 18 who recovered were treated with immune plasma collected from recovered patients. Treated patients acquired IgG antibody from the plasma, but it was possible to discern the onset of an endogenous IgM response in those individuals who survived the disease by all of the methods tested. Indirect immunofluorescence (IF) tests detected IgM and/or IgG antibodies at the earliest on day 4 of illness in about 10% of patients who survived the disease, and by day 9 all survivors had antibodies demonstrable by IF. A biotin-streptavidin IF technique offered no advantage over the standard IF test for the early detection of IgG antibody, but demonstrated higher antibody titles and detected IgM antibody earlier in about a quarter of the patients tested. An IgM-capture enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) and an IgG sandwich ELISA demonstrated higher antibody titres than did IF tests, and detected antibody responses at an earlier stage of infection than did IF tests in about one-fifth of patients, but the reverse was true in a similar proportion of instances. A competition ELISA, which detected total antibody activity, produced lower titres than did the IgM and IgG ELISAs, but yielded results which were in close agreement with the findings in IF tests. It was concluded that the IF tests were most convenient for use in making a rapid serodiagnosis of the disease.
(Accepted July 25 1994)
c1 Author for correspondence: F. J. Burt, National Institute for Virology, Private Bag X4, Sandringham 2131, South Africa.