Background: Anti-Lassa antibodies are detected by indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) or by enzyme-immunoassay (ELISA). Both methods have problems to detect low amounts of specific antibodies.
Objectives: We report here highly sensitive and specific reverse ELISAs to detect Lassa virus IgG and IgM antibodies. Due to the reverse techniques, serum samples could be applied at dilutions of 1:10 without increasing non-specific background reactions.
Study design: For IgM antibody detection microtiter plates were coated with anti-IgM antibodies and for IgG antibody detection with rheumatoid factor (RF) (Sachers M, Emmerich P, Mohr H, Schmitz H. Simple detection of antibodies to different viruses using rheumatoid factor and enzyme-labelled antigen (ELA). J Virol Methods 1985;10:99-110). In both assays a tissue culture antigen was used in combination with a labeled anti-Lassa monoclonal antibody (Hufert FT, Ludke W, Schmitz H. Epitope mapping of the Lassa virus nucleoprotein using monoclonal anti-nucleocapsid antibodies. Arch Virol 1989;106(3-4):201-12).
Results: The reverse ELISA turned out to detect virus-specific IgG and IgM antibody in all 20 samples of West African patients collected 2-8 weeks after onset of Lassa fever. Moreover, both IFA and reverse ELISA found IgG antibodies in 53 out of 643 samples of healthy West Africans (sensitivity of 100%). Six of the 643 samples were positive by reverse IgG ELISA only. Thus, the specificity compared to IIF was 99.0%, but it may be even higher, because compared to IFA the IgG ELISA was clearly more sensitive in detecting low antibody titers.
Conclusions: In Ghana 3% seropositives were found by IFA, but 4% by the reverse ELISA. The reverse ELISAs can be performed with high sensitivity and specificity under field conditions in Africa.