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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Simultaneous IgM reactivity by EIA against more than one virus in measles, parvovirus B19 and rubella infection

H I Thomas, E Barrett, L M Hesketh, A Wynne, P Morgan-Capner
Journal of Clinical Virology 1999, 14 (2): 107-18
10588453

BACKGROUND: A clinical diagnosis of rash-causing infections is not always possible and reliance has to be placed on serological evidence of infection, especially on the presence of specific immunoglobulin (Ig)M. However, despite the use of modern serological methods and validated commercial kits, reports appear in the literature of simultaneous IgM reactivity against more than one virus in cases of Epstein Barr virus, rubella, cytomegalovirus, human parvovirus B19 (HPV B19) and measles infections, all with implications for the pregnant woman.

OBJECTIVES: We decided to evaluate the extent of the problem in rubella, measles and HPV B19 infections in a routine diagnostic laboratory.

STUDY DESIGN: We tested sera from cases with initial clinical and serological evidence of infection with measles, HPV B19 or rubella for evidence of simultaneous IgM reactivity against more than one virus. We confirmed primary infections with specific-IgG antibody avidity tests, and subjected sera with IgM reactivity against more than one virus to avidity tests to identify which, if any, of the three viruses was the cause of the primary infection. Groups of monoreactive IgM sera were randomly selected from the presented sera to demonstrate that the avidity of the IgG specific for the other two viruses would be of high avidity compared with the low avidity of the IgG specific for the virus against which specific IgM had been detected.

RESULTS: Our results confirm that simultaneous IgM reactivity against more than one virus does occur in these three infections, and that this is unlikely to be caused by the presence of rheumatoid factor.

CONCLUSIONS: In the absence of seroconversion, reliance on specific IgM results alone for diagnosis of these infections should be avoided and tests such as specific IgG antibody avidity should also be employed. The simultaneous occurrence of IgM reactivity against more than one virus is also important for epidemiological and surveillance reasons as the widespread use of the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine makes its impact on the population. Falsely diagnosed cases of apparent measles or rubella could throw into question the efficacy of the vaccine.

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