Enteroviruses are a group of positive single-stranded viruses that belong to the Picornaviridae family. They regularly infect humans and cause symptoms ranging from the common cold and hand-foot-and-mouth disease to life-threatening conditions, such as dilated cardiomyopathy and poliomyelitis. Enteroviruses have also been associated with chronic immune-mediated diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and asthma. Studying these disease-pathogen connections is challenging due to the high prevalence of enterovirus infections in the population and the transient appearance of the virus during the acute infection phase, which limit the identification of the causative agent via methods based on the virus genome. Serological assays can detect the antibodies induced by acute and past infections, which is useful when direct virus detection is not possible. We describe in this immuno-epidemiological study how the antibody levels against VP1 proteins from eight different enterovirus types, representing all seven of the human infecting enterovirus species, vary over time. VP1 responses first significantly (P < 0.001) decline until 6 months of age, reflecting maternal antibodies, and they then start to increase as the infections accumulate and the immune system develops. All 58 children in this study were selected from the DiabImmnune cohort for having PCR-confirmed enterovirus infections. Additionally, we show that there is great, although not complete, cross-reactivity of VP1 proteins from different enteroviruses and that the response against 3C-pro could reasonably well reflect the recent Enterovirus infection history (ρ = 0.94, P = 0.017). The serological analysis of enterovirus antibodies in sera from children paves the way for the development of tools for monitoring the Enterovirus epidemics and associated diseases. IMPORTANCE Enteroviruses cause a wide variety of symptoms ranging from a mild rash and the common cold to paralyzing poliomyelitis. While enteroviruses are among the most common human pathogens, there is a need for new, affordable serological assays with which to study pathogen-disease connections in large cohorts, as enteroviruses have been linked to several chronic illnesses, such as type 1 diabetes mellitus and asthma exacerbations. However, proving causality remains an issue. In this study, we describe the use of an easily customizable multiplexed assay that is based on structural and nonstructural enterovirus proteins to study antibody responses in a cohort of 58 children from birth to 3 years of age. We demonstrate how declining maternal antibody levels can obscure the serological detection of enteroviruses before the age of six months and how antibody responses to nonstructural enterovirus proteins could be interesting targets for serodiagnosis.
Keywords: antigen; children; diagnostics; enterovirus; humoral response; multiplex assay; serology.