Evaluation of an Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay in Thai Scrub Typhus Patients

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  • Department of Entomology, United States Army Medical Component, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Department of Medicine, Chiangrai Prachanuchroa Hospital, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Royal Thai Army Medical Department, Viral and Rickettsial Diseases Program, Naval Medical Research Institute, Department of Clinical Investigation, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Department of Rickettsial Diseases, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Bangkok, Thailand
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We report the development of an improved enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect Orientia (formerly Rickettsia) tsutsugamushi antibody in human sera. Results were compared with a standard test, the indirect immunoperoxidase assay (IIP). Control serum samples were collected from 96 American soldiers and 198 Royal Thai Army soldiers with no recent history of clinical illness. Sera were examined from 79 febrile, Thai scrub typhus patients presenting at Chiang Rai (76) and Bangkraui Nontaburi (3) Provincial hospitals (cases confirmed by elevated IIP IgG levels ≥ 1:1,600, IgM levels ≥ 1:400, or presence of an eschar). The mean + 2 SD, used for the upper limit of normal reactions in the IgG ELISA, was 0.10 for U.S. soldiers and 0.42 for Thai soldiers. Using the 0.10 cutoff value, 29% of the asymptomatic Thai soldiers would be designated as antibody positive. Variability of IgG ELISA values was greater in the Thai soldier group than in American soldiers, possibly reflecting previous exposure to O. tsutsugamushi. In the Thai patients, there was a significant correlation between IIP titers and single serum dilution (1:100) ELISA values (IgG, r = 0.75, n = 104; P < 0.0005; IgM, r = 0.70, n = 75; P < 0.0005) and between IIP titers and ELISA titers (IgG, r = 0.87, n = 103; P < 0.0005; IgM, r = 0.76, n = 75; P < 0.0005). The single serum dilution ELISA was as effective as the titration in determining presence of specific antibodies. The O. tsutsugamushi ELISA is a rapid and objective test amenable to accurately testing the large numbers of sera often obtained in seroepidemiologic investigations.