Background: Diagnosis of chlamydial conjuctivitis is difficult in chronic diseases because chlamydial elementary bodies are mostly undetectable in conjunctival scrapings by cell culture. We therefore compared two nonculture antigen tests and three different serotests for anti-chlamydial antibodies with McCoy cell culture, the "gold standard" of chlamydial diagnosis. Conjunctival scrapings and serum samples of 93 patients attending the outpatient eye clinic in Graz because of chronic follicular conjunctivitis were tested.
Methods: A total of 558 conjunctival scrapings and 93 serum samples were investigated. Chlamydial antigen detection was done by McCoy cell culture, polymerase chain reaction (PCR; Amplicor, Roche), and direct immunofluorescence assay (DFA; Microtrak, Syva). Antichlamydial IgA and IgG antibodies in the sera were detected by an immunoperoxidase assay (IPAzyme, Savyon) and two different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (SeroELISA, Savyon and rELISA, medac).
Results: Cell culture and PCR yielded identical results. The positivity rate for chlamydial conjunctivitis was 8.6% (8 of 93 patients). PCR proved most sensitive and most specific. IPAzyme was 75% sensitive for IgA and 100% for IgG; SeroELISA and rELISA were less sensitive. IPAzyme was 81% specific for IgA and 47.3% for IgG. SeroELISA and rELISA were less specific for IgA, but more specific for IgG. Post-test likelihood of disease was greatest in IPAzyme.
Conclusions: PCR proved to be a good alternative to cell culture; DFA is useful for quick diagnosis. Genus-specific serotests cannot compete with chlamydial antigen detection. They differ in sensitivity and specificity because of the antigen type they present. They are still of only supportive value in cases where chlamydial antigen detection is not possible. Recently introduced species-specific antibody tests should be of greater value.