The conventional diagnosis of dengue virus infections includes the detection of the virus in serum or tissue samples, both by isolation in culture or through detection of specific viral molecules (genome RNA or dengue antigens) and detection of specific anti-dengue antibodies (serology). Isolation of dengue virus provides the most direct and conclusive approach to diagnosis, despite the demand for high-level equipment, technical skills and manpower. However, it is useless in early diagnosis because several days are required to isolate and classify the virus. Serology, despite being simpler, is not able to afford an accurate early diagnosis in primary infections because 4-5 days are required for the immune system to produce a sufficient amount of antibodies. Moreover, it leads to misleading results in secondary infections owing to cross-reactivity among serotype-specific antibodies and with other flavivirus antibodies. The RT-PCR and other PCR-based techniques are fast, serotype-discriminating, more sensitive and easier to carry out than conventional nucleic-acid hybridisation, but are handicapped by easy sample contamination and high technological demands. Recently, advances in bioelectronics have generated commercial kits and new techniques for detection of dengue antibodies and RNA, based on biosensor technology. Most of them are rapid, easy to operate, reusable, cheap, sensitive and serotype-specific. Nevertheless, their accuracy is still questionable because most still lack validation and standardisation. This review summarises and describes the techniques currently employed and anticipated in the near future for diagnosis of dengue disease.
Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.