Background: Enterovirus 71 (EV71) has caused recurrent epidemics of hand, foot and mouth disease among children in Singapore. Between August 2008 and July 2010, we conducted a survey to estimate the seroprevalence of EV71 infection among children and adolescents aged 1-17 years. We compared our EV71 seroepidemiologic findings with a previous study conducted in 1996-1997.
Methods: The survey involved the prospective collection of 1,200 residual sera from Singapore residents aged 1-17 years in two hospitals. Neutralizing antibodies to EV71 were detected by the microneutralization test. The geometric mean titer (GMT) of EV71 antibodies and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated and compared by age groups. Statistical significance was taken as P < 0.05.
Results: The overall EV71 antibody prevalence was 26.9% (95% CI: 24.5-29.5%). It increased significantly from 14.3% in children aged 1-6 years to 27.8% in those aged 7-12 years, and reached 38.8% in adolescents aged 13-17 years. The seroconversion rate differed by about 12% between the consecutive age groups. The GMT of EV71 antibodies was higher among primary school children aged 7-12 years in our study than that among the 6-12 year age group in the 1996-1997 study.
Conclusions: Higher antibody titers were observed in children aged 1-6 years than those in the other two age groups, indicating that most of the infections had been acquired during early childhood. EV71 infection is common among children and adolescents in Singapore, with 39% infected by the time they are in secondary school (13-17 years of age).