Development of Highly Sensitive Sandwich ELISA for the Early-Phase Diagnosis of Chikungunya Virus Utilizing rE2-E1 Protein

Infect Drug Resist. 2022 Jul 28;15:4065-4078. doi: 10.2147/IDR.S347545. eCollection 2022.


Introduction: Chikungunya is caused by an alpha virus transmitted to humans by an infected mosquito. Infection is generally considered to be self-limiting and non-critical. Chikungunya infection may be diagnosed by severe joint pain with fever, but it is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of chikungunya are common to many pathogens, including dengue fever. Diagnosis mainly depends on viral culture, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and IgM ELISA. Early and accurate diagnosis of the virus can be achieved by the application of PCR methods, but the high cost and the need for a thermal cycler restrict the use of such methods. On the other hand, antibody-based IgM ELISA is considered to be inexpensive, but antibodies against chikungunya virus (CHIKV) only develop after 4 days of infection, so it has limited application in the earlier diagnosis of viral infection and the management of patients. Because of these challenges, a simple antigen-based sensitive, specific, and rapid detection method is required for the early and accurate clinical diagnosis of chikungunya.

Methods: The amino acid sequence of CHIKV ectodomain E1 and E2 proteins was analyzed using bioinformatics tools to determine the antigenic residues, particularly the B-cell epitopes and their characteristics. Recombinant E2-E1 CHIKV antigen was used for the development of polyclonal antibodies in hamsters and IgG was purified. Serological tests of 96 CHIKV patients were conducted by antigen-capture ELISA using primary antibodies raised against rCHIKV E2-E1 in hamsters and human anti-CHIKV antibodies.

Results: We observed high specificity and sensitivity, of 100% and 95.8%, respectively, and these values demonstrate the efficiency of the test as a clinical diagnostic tool. There was no cross-reactivity with samples taken from dengue patients.

Discussion: Our simple and sensitive sandwich ELISA for the early-phase detection of CHIKV infection may be used to improve the diagnosis of chikungunya.

Keywords: B-cell epitopes; IgG; chikungunya; hamster antibodies; recombinant E2-E1; sandwich ELISA.