Antibody detection in tear samples as a surrogate to monitor host immunity against papillomavirus infections in vaccinated and naturally infected hosts

J Gen Virol. 2014 Sep;95(Pt 9):2030-2037. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.064154-0. Epub 2014 Jun 5.


Monitoring serum antibodies against natural infections or after immunizations has been a standard clinical diagnostic procedure. However, collecting blood samples requires trained personnel, and may cause discomfort and increase the risk of complications. In this study, we investigated whether tear samples could serve as a surrogate for serum samples to measure specific antibodies. A widely used preclinical cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (CRPV)/rabbit model has been a surrogate model for high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. New Zealand white rabbits, either naturally infected with CRPV or immunized with two clinically available HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix), were examined for antibody generation in both tear and serum samples. We demonstrated that antibodies were detectable in tears from both naturally infected as well as vaccinated animals. Overall, the antibody levels in tears were ~10-fold lower than those from the corresponding serum samples, but background noise was lower in tear samples. The isotypes of antibodies in tears were predominantly IgA and IgG. These findings showed clearly that tears could be a surrogate for serum samples for monitoring antibody responses. As collecting tears causes no discomfort and poses no risk to patients, it represents a novel and promising method for monitoring future HPV epidemiological studies as well as for use in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antibodies, Viral / isolation & purification*
  • Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus / immunology*
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18
  • Human papillomavirus 16 / immunology
  • Human papillomavirus 18 / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin A / isolation & purification
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / isolation & purification
  • Papillomavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / veterinary*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / immunology
  • Rabbits
  • Tears / immunology*
  • Vaccination


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Human Papillomavirus Recombinant Vaccine Quadrivalent, Types 6, 11, 16, 18
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines
  • human papillomavirus vaccine, L1 type 16, 18