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Specific immunoglobulins in infants with the congenital rubella syndrome

  • J. E. Cradock-Watson (a1), Margaret K. S. Ridehalgh (a1) and Shireen Chantler (a2)

Summary

The indirect immunofluorescent technique has been used to detect and titrate the specific immunoglobulins in serum specimens from 154 infants with confirmed or suspected congenital rubella. IgM antibody was stained more efficiently in sucrose density gradient fractions than in whole serum and was detected in this way in 27 out of 40 patients with confirmed congenital rubella at ages ranging from birth to 2 years. It was present in 48 out of 50 serum specimens during the first 6 months of life and in 11 out of 38 specimens obtained at ages between 6½ months and 2 years. IgM antibody was therefore estimated to persist for about 6 months in the majority of cases and up to 2 years in a few individuals. IgM antibody was also detected by this method in 11 out of 114 infants with suspected but unconfirmed congenital rubella at ages up to 5 months. The total concentrations of IgM were above the normal range in nearly all sera taken from confirmed cases during the first 3 months of life and in half the specimens obtained between the ages of 3 and 6 months.

IgG antibody was detected by fluorescent staining of whole serum in all patients with congenital rubella. Geometric mean titres increased during the first 3 months of life and then declined slowly. IgA antibody was not detected, except in two patients in whom traces were present at the age of 6 months, and the total concentrations of IgA were usually within normal limits.

Fluorescent staining of fractions showed that the sedimentation characteristics of rubella IgG and IgM antibodies were the same in infants as in adults. The peak IgM fractions never contained IgG antibody, and the presence of specific IgM in these fractions could usually have been safely inferred from their HAI titres. Fluorescent staining, however, was more sensitive and frequently detected IgM antibody in fractions which had no definite HAI activity.

Fluorescent staining of whole serum for IgM antibody was less distinct, and often unsuccessful, even in specimens in which specific IgM was detected in the fractions. The addition of IgG- to IgM-containing fractions caused depression of IgM staining and suggested that failure to detect IgM antibody in whole serum was partly due to competitive inhibition by specific IgG.

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References

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Epidemiology & Infection
  • ISSN: 0950-2688
  • EISSN: 1469-4409
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