Evaluation of four commercially available Epstein-Barr virus enzyme immunoassays with an immunofluorescence assay as the reference method

Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 2003 Jan;10(1):78-82. doi: 10.1128/cdli.10.1.78-82.2003.


Four commercially available enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) (Novitec, Biotest, Virotech, and DiaSorin) were evaluated, with an indirect immunofluorescence assay as the reference method, for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) VCA (viral capsid antigen) immunoglobulin G (IgG), VCA IgM, or EBNA (EBV nuclear antigen) IgG at three different locations (Homburg, Stuttgart, and Dresden). Serum samples from 66 immunocompetent patients with infectious mononucleosis, 73 patients without prior EBV infection, and 96 patients with past EBV infections and 29 serum samples with possible cross-reactions to other herpesviruses were included. In addition, 25 samples from an extensively pretested panel that is commercially available (Boston Biomedica) were tested. Each sample was tested at only one location. The four EIAs varied considerably in performance. When analyzing for EBV diagnosis, the Novitec assay performed the best, with 4.9% discrepant diagnoses, followed by the Biotest, Virotech, and DiaSorin assays, with 6.8, 11.7, and 14.0% discrepant diagnoses, respectively. On the basis of single-parameter analysis, the Novitec assay also showed the lowest number of discrepant results, with 3.5%, compared with the Virotech, Biotest, and DiaSorin assays, which produced 5.4, 6.4, and 8.6% discrepant results, respectively. VCA assays using affinity-purified native antigens performed better than assays with recombinant or synthetic antigens. The synthetic EBNA-1s showed the lowest concordance with the reference compared to recombinant p72. Commercially available EBV EIAs differed considerably in performance; however, some proved to be reliable and convenient alternatives to the indirect immunofluorescence assay for routine diagnostics. Native antigens, rather than synthetic peptides, are favored for EBV serology testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral / blood*
  • Capsid Proteins / blood
  • Cross Reactions
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / standards
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / diagnosis
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens / blood
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct / standards
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic / standards*


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Capsid Proteins
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Epstein-Barr viral capsid antigen
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic