Background: In Southeast Asia, dengue viruses often co-circulate with other flaviviruses such as Japanese encephalitis virus, and due to the presence of shared antigenic epitopes it is often difficult to use serological methods to distinguish between previous infections by these flaviviruses.
Results: Convalescent sera from 69 individuals who were known to have had dengue or Japanese encephalitis virus infection were tested by western blotting against dengue, Japanese encephalitis and West Nile virus antigens. We determined that individuals who had been infected with dengue viruses had IgG responses against the premembrane protein of dengue viruses but not Japanese encephalitis, whereas individuals who had been infected with Japanese encephalitis had IgG specific for the premembrane protein of Japanese encephalitis virus but not the dengue viruses. None reacted with the premembrane protein of West Nile virus. Using the Pearson Chi Square test, it was determined that the difference between the two groups was highly significant with a p value of <0.001.
Conclusion: The use of flavivirus premembrane protein in seroepidemiological studies will be useful in determining what flaviviruses have circulated in a community.