Journal of immunological methods

Increasing the accuracy and scalability of the Immunofluorescence Assay for Epstein Barr Virus by inferring continuous titers from a single sample dilution.

PMID 27983956


High Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) titers detected by the indirect Immunofluorescence Assay (IFA) are a reliable predictor of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma (NPC). Despite being the gold standard for serological detection of NPC, the IFA is limited by scaling bottlenecks. Specifically, 5 serial dilutions of each patient sample must be prepared and visually matched by an evaluator to one of 5 discrete titers. Here, we describe a simple method for inferring continuous EBV titers from IFA images acquired from NPC-positive patient sera using only a single sample dilution. In the first part of our study, 2 blinded evaluators used a set of reference titer standards to perform independent re-evaluations of historical samples with known titers. Besides exhibiting high inter-evaluator agreement, both evaluators were also in high concordance with historical titers, thus validating the accuracy of the reference titer standards. In the second part of the study, the reference titer standards were IFA-processed and assigned an 'EBV Score' using image analysis. A log-linear relationship between titers and EBV Score was observed. This relationship was preserved even when images were acquired and analyzed 3days post-IFA. We conclude that image analysis of IFA-processed samples can be used to infer a continuous EBV titer with just a single dilution of NPC-positive patient sera. This work opens new possibilities for improving the accuracy and scalability of IFA in the context of clinical screening.