A novel enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and a confirmatory Western blot (WB) to detect human antibodies against Francisella tularensis were evaluated. The ELISA was based on partially purified lipopolysaccharide (LPS), the WB on whole antigen of F. tularensis. Positive WB showed a typical LPS ladder. Sensitivity and specificity of the ELISA, as assessed in 104 positive sera and 1149 ‘normal’ sera from healthy young adults, were 99·0% and 97·1% respectively. Sensitivity of the WB was close to 100%, whereas specificity was 99·6%. Antibodies against the LPS of F. tularensis were detected in four of the ‘normal’ sera in both ELISA and WB. The assays were further evaluated using sera of individuals from Norway, Sweden and Kosovo suspected to be infected in tularemia outbreaks. Results revealed that the combination of ELISA and WB is suitable for laboratory confirmation of tularemia as well as for large-scale epidemiological studies.
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