Estimation of IgG avidity index is a classical serological method. Antibodies with low avidity are detectable at a very early stage of infection whereas high avidity antibodies indicate past infection. Recently, it was shown that the neutralization assay can be routinely used as a reliable method for differentiating between acute primary and non-primary infection in a single serum sample because the first neutralizing titers (NT) appeared after an average of 13 weeks (range, 10-17 weeks). A low positive NT titer in the presence of specific IgM antibodies, however, still represents a diagnostic problem especially if blood sampling occurred after the 12th week of gestation. To overcome this problem the combination of NT and IgG avidity tests was evaluated. Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) IgG avidity indices of 350 serum samples from 227 pregnant women were investigated using 6M urea in the washing buffer. HCMV specific IgG antibodies reached full maturation approximately 20-22 weeks after seroconversion and low IgG avidity is therefore a marker of primary infection. The combined application of the microneutralization and avidity assays was shown to serve as a helpful tool in diagnosis of a recent primary HCMV infection of second trimester pregnancy particularly when previous serological data were not available.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.