To demonstrate the usefulness of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for serodiagnosis of mycobacterioses due to environmental mycobacteria we utilized a panel of glycolipid antigens selective for Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare, Mycobacterium kansasii, Mycobacterium xenopi, Mycobacterium scrofulaceum and Mycobacterium gordonae. The levels of circulating antibodies were determined against the environmental mycobacteria, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis in human immunodeficiency virus-negative and -positive patient sera. The method used immunomagnetic separation of the antigens, with covalent immobilization of antibodies to superparamagnetic amine and carboxyl terminated particles in solutions of the specific antigens. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay was performed on 195 patient sera: 34 with infections due to environmental mycobacteria, 114 with tuberculosis, 47 with other respiratory diseases. There were 46 human immunodeficiency virus-1 infected individuals. Among the 34 infections due to environmental mycobacteria, 9 patients were singularly infected with an environmental mycobacterium, and 25 co-infected with both M. tuberculosis and an environmental mycobacterium. Sensitivity, specificity and false positivity ranges were determined for each of the volunteer groups: tuberculosis positive, human immunodeficiency virus negative; tuberculosis positive, human immunodeficiency virus positive; those with infections due to individual environmental mycobacteria (such as M. scrofulaceum and M. kansasii); and those with other respiratory diseases. We demonstrate that such multiple assays, can be useful for the early diagnosis of diverse environmental mycobacterial infections to allow the start of treatment earlier than henceforth.
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