The causes of false-positives encountered during the screening of old-world primates for antibodies to human and simian retroviruses by ELISA

J Virol Methods. 1986 Nov;14(3-4):213-28. doi: 10.1016/0166-0934(86)90023-6.


Sera from 526 old-world primates representing 50 different species were screened by ELISA for antibodies to human T-lymphotropic viruses I and III, and simian retrovirus type 1 (SRV-1). About one-fourth of the sera were positive by ELISA. There was a tendency, however, for the same sera to be positive for all three human and simian retroviruses. Only about one in five of the ELISA antibody-positive sera were confirmed to be positive by Western blotting. False-positive ELISA antibody tests were particularly common among sera from mandrills, crab-eating macaques, lion-tailed macaques, African green monkeys, and DeBrazza's and moustached guenons. Sera that were falsely positive in ELISA antibody tests to the three human and simian retroviruses were found to contain antibodies that reacted at comparable intensity with feline leukemia, infectious peritonitis and panleukopenia viruses. The false anti-viral activity of these sera was found to be due to antibodies that reacted with non-viral proteins that were copurified with all five virus preparations. These proteins were present in normal cat and human cells used to grow the various viruses and in gelatin. The implications of nonspecific cell-protein antibodies in primate sera were discussed in the light of this and previous seroepidemiologic studies of man and old-world monkeys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Antigens / analysis
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Cats
  • Cell Line
  • Coronaviridae / immunology
  • Cross Reactions
  • Deltaretrovirus / immunology
  • Deltaretrovirus / isolation & purification
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • False Positive Reactions
  • HIV / immunology
  • HIV / isolation & purification
  • HIV Antibodies
  • Humans
  • Parvoviridae / immunology
  • Primates / microbiology*
  • Retroviridae / immunology*
  • Retroviridae / isolation & purification


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens
  • HIV Antibodies