A possible explanation for the discrepancy between ELISA and neutralising antibodies to tetanus toxin

Vaccine. 2000 Jun 1;18(24):2698-703. doi: 10.1016/s0264-410x(00)00066-9.


The structure and protective activity of tetanus antibodies elicited in rabbits after whole-cell pertussis diphtheria-tetanus vaccine (DTPw) vaccination was studied. ELISA antibody levels and toxin neutralisation activity (TNT) were measured in individual serum samples. The ratio of symmetric and asymmetric (functionally monovalent) IgG molecules was determined by concanavalin A (Con A) chromatography. This test is based on the fact that the carbohydrate group responsible for the molecular asymmetry has high affinity for the lectin Con A. Asymmetric molecule ratio was observed to increase with immunisation time, as well as differences between TNT and ELISA levels. All serum samples were overestimated by ELISA as compared to TNT assay, in line with the markedly higher proportion of asymmetric molecules which have lower toxin neutralising activity. Protective levels could not be predicted reasonably from ELISA results below 0. 222 IU/ml, because this methodology fails to discriminate between both types of antibodies and only an in vivo serum neutralisation procedure (TNT) reflects the true neutralising serum activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis*
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine / immunology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments / immunology
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Rabbits
  • Tetanus Toxin / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine
  • Immunoglobulin Fab Fragments
  • Tetanus Toxin