Veterinary immunology and immunopathology

Comparison of assays for the detection of West Nile virus antibodies in equine serum after natural infection or vaccination.

PMID 28063471


West Nile virus (WNV) mainly infects birds, horses and humans. Outcomes of the infection range from mild uncharacteristic signs to fatal neurologic disease. The main objectives of the present study were to measure serum IgG and IgM antibodies in naturally exposed and vaccinated horses and to compare results of haemagglutination inhibition test (HIT), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and plaque reduction neutralisation test (PRNT). Altogether 224 animals were tested by HIT for WNV antibodies and 41 horses were simultaneously examined by ELISA and PRNT. After primary screening for WNV antibodies, horses were vaccinated. Samples were taken immediately before and 3-5 weeks after each vaccination. McNemar's chi-squared and percent agreement tests were used to detect concordance between HIT, ELISA and PRNT. Analyses by HIT confirmed the presence of WNV antibodies in 27/105 (26%) naturally exposed horses. Sera from 57/66 (86%) vaccinated animals were positive before the first booster and from 11/11 (100%) before the second booster. HIT was less sensitive for detecting IgG antibodies. We could detect postvaccination IgM in 13 cases with IgM antibody capture ELISA (MAC-ELISA) and in 7 cases with HIT. WNV is endemic in Hungary and regularly causes natural infections. Protective antibodies could not be measured in some of the cases 12 months after primary vaccinations; protection is more reliable after the first yearly booster. Based on our findings it was not possible to differentiate infected from recently vaccinated horses using MAC-ELISA. HIT cannot be used as a substitute for ELISA or PRNT when detecting IgG, but it proved to be a useful tool in this study to gain statistical information about the tendencies within a fixed population of horses.

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