Background: The transplacental transfer of specific maternal IgG antibodies makes the diagnosis of congenital Toxoplasma infection quite difficult in the neonate. The enzyme-linked immunofiltration assay (ELIFA), comparing at delivery the immunologic profile of the mother's antibody response and that of her child, allows discrimination between IgG antibodies of maternal origin and IgGs synthesized by the fetus.
Objective: To evaluate the diagnostic reliability of the comparative ELIFA for diagnosing congenital Toxoplasma infection as well as the reliability of testing for IgM- and IgA-specific antibodies in cord blood.
Methods: From November, 1991, to December, 1995, an ELIFA was prospectively performed at delivery on blood samples obtained from 227 women with primary Toxoplasma infection during pregnancy and from their infants. For each child the ELIFA result was evaluated in relation to the serologic follow-up: disappearance of specific anti-Toxoplasma gondii IgG antibodies in the absence of treatment before 12 months of age indicating an uninfected child, as opposed to persistence beyond 12 months of age indicative of a congenital infection.
Results: Of 227 children 139 were lost to follow-up. Among the 88 children available for follow up, the ELIFA was negative in 70 infants, 69 of whom were confirmed to be uninfected. Thirteen of these 69 cord blood ELIFA-negative samples were positive for anti-T. gondii IgM and/or IgA detected by means of a conventional immunosorbent agglutination assay. Of the remaining 18 children (representing 75% of all new cases of congenital toxoplasmosis diagnosed during the study period at our institution), the ELIFA was positive in 16, negative in 1 and inconclusive in 1.
Conclusions: The ELIFA test is a valuable tool for diagnosing congenital T. gondii infection and in differentiating between true neonatal infection and cord blood contamination. In our experience the diagnostic sensitivity of the ELIFA test was 94.1% and the specificity was 98.6%. The cord blood was contaminated by specific maternal anti-T. gondii IgA and/or IgM in as many as 20% of the cases.