Development and validation of a mucosal antibody (IgA) test to identify persistent infection with foot-and-mouth disease virus

It is well known that approximately 50% of cattle infected with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus (FMDV) may become asymptomatic carrier (persistently infected) animals. Although transmission of FMDV from carrier cattle to naïve cattle has not been demonstrated experimentally, circumstantial evidence from field studies has linked FMDV-carrier cattle to cause subsequent outbreaks. Therefore, the asymptomatic carrier state complicates the control and eradication of FMD. Current serological diagnosis using tests for antibodies to the viral non-structural proteins (NSPELISA) are not sensitive enough to detect all carrier animals, if persistently infected after vaccination and do not distinguish between carriers and non-carriers. The specificity of the NSP ELISA may also be reduced after vaccination, in particular after multiple vaccination. FMDV-specific mucosal antibodies (IgA) are not produced in vaccinated cattle but are elevated transiently during the acute phase of infection and can be detected at a high level in cattle persistently infected with FMDV, irrespective of their vaccination status. Therefore, detection of IgA by ELISA may be considered a diagnostic alternative to RT-PCR for assessing FMDV persistent infection in ruminants in both vaccinated and unvaccinated infected populations. This study reports on the development and validation of a new mucosal IgA ELISA for the detection of carrier animals using nasal, saliva, and oropharyngeal fluid (OPF) samples. The diagnostic performance of the IgA ELISA using nasal samples from experimentally vaccinated and infected cattle demonstrated a high level of specificity (99%) and an improved level of sensitivity (76.5%). Furthermore, the detection of carrier animals reached 96.9% when parallel testing of samples was carried out using both the IgA-ELISA and NSP-ELISA.

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