Diagnostic Performance of the Equine IgM Capture ELISA for Serodiagnosis of West Nile Virus Infection

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The objectives of these studies were to assess the diagnostic performance (sensitivity and specificity) of the IgM capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; MAC) for diagnosis of West Nile (WN) virus in horses and to examine the performance of this test by using different criteria for seropositivity. A total of 36 horses classified as WN virus infected (group 1) and 383 horses from 4 subpopulations of hoses classified as noninfected (groups 2, 3, 4, and 5) were used in the study. The sensitivity (proportion of infected horses that tested positive for WN virus IgM antibodies) and specificity (proportion of noninfected horses that tested negative) were calculated at different cutoff points by using receiver operating curve (ROC) analysis. Using a selected cutoff point = 2.0, the sensitivity and specificity of the MAC were 91.7 and 99.2%, respectively. The area under the ROC curve = 0.95 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.89 to 1.0), suggesting that the MAC is a useful tool for diagnosis of recent WN virus exposure in horses. In fulfillment of the 2nd objective, 2 other indices were developed and these indices approached 1.0 for the AUC with smaller 95% CIs. These indices were then used to test 602 additional diagnostic samples submitted from suspect horses between 2002 and 2004. Using the standard cutoff, 194 (32%) of the horses were interpreted as positive. Utilizing newly predicted cutoff criteria from each index, additional horses were identified as positive. In conclusion, the MAC as used for identification of WN virus-diseased horses undergoing recent exposure performs reliably at the standard cutoff for seropositivity. A negative test might not completely rule out WN virus disease, but horses that test negative were most likely not exposed to WNV. Performance of the test can be further improved by investigation of other indexes of seropositivity.

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