Background: Despite the availability of several different markers for Epstein--Barr virus (EBV) serology, the EBV status of some patients cannot be resolved from a single serum sample with routine testing. To avoid the requirement of follow-up samples, supplementary tests have to be used in these cases.
Objective: To evaluate the usefulness of avidity and immunoblot assays as supplementary tests for the diagnosis of acute EBV infections.
Study design: Three groups of samples for which a definite diagnosis on the EBV status could not be obtained with the routine serological tests were further examined by an EBV IgG avidity assay, by an immunoblot based on a lysate of EBV infected cells, and by a second immunoblot based on recombinant EBV antigens. The three groups consisted of 38 samples with negative/borderline EB nuclear antigen 1 (EBNA-1) antibodies, negative/borderline EBV IgM and positive EBV IgG; 10 samples with indeterminate EBNA-1 and/or EBV IgM assays because of control antigen reactions; and 4 samples with positive EBV IgM results that were not plausible.
Results: The avidity assay differentiated between acute and past infections for all samples. In contrast, some cases remained unresolved with both the recombinant and the lysate immunoblot. Two samples were incorrectly classified with the lysate immunoblot. Interpretation of the lysate immunoblot banding patterns was complicated when anticellular antibodies were present.
Conclusion: Avidity testing appears to be the confirmatory method of choice to differentiate between acute and past EBV infections.