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Duration of secretory IgM and IgA antibodies to respiratory syncytial virus in a community study in Guinea‐Bissau

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is probably the single major cause of lower respiratory infection (LRI) among infants worldwide. Its relative importance may be underestimated, as the diagnosis is based on antigen detection and antigen may only be detectable in the early phase of infection. We have therefore assessed the duration of secretory IgM and IgA antibody responses and whether assays for these antibodies can be used to improve the diagnosing of RSV‐associated infections. During two RSV epidemics in Guinea‐Bissau, 32 RSV antigen‐positive children with LRI were followed with sequential nasopharyngeal suction on days 7, 14, 30, 60 and 120 in the first epidemic and every fortnight for 6 mo after the second epidemic to measure the duration of secretory IgM and IgA responses. Nearly all of the children had an IgM response during the first month after infection. The response ratio was highest on days 7 and 14, being 84% and 71%, respectively. After 30 d the IgM response decreased rapidly. Among 27 age‐ and sex‐matched controls, only 1 child was positive for IgM. During the second epidemic, when the children were followed more intensively, half of the children were IgM‐positive after the acute phase of infection. A secondary response may be more likely in children with low IgM responses in the acute phase (RR = 2.08 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.92–4.70)). The IgA response was highest on days 28 and 42 after antigen detection, 72% having a detectable IgA response within the first 1.5 mo. Among 27 controls, only 2 were IgA‐positive (7%). In the second epidemic with more intensive follow‐up, 62% (8/13) of the IgA‐positive children had a response that lasted 10 wk. Of the children with no persistent IgA response, half (5/10) had a subsequent IgA‐positive response after the first 42 d. All of these children had a simultaneous IgM‐positive response. When 29 of the children were tested after an epidemic when they were 1–3‐y‐old, >80% again had high IgM (24/29, 82%) and IgA (28/29, 94%) levels.
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Keywords: Acute respiratory infection; lower respiratory infection; respiratory syncytial virus; secretory IgA; secretory IgM

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Projecto de Saúde de Bandim, Bissau Codex, Guinea-Bissau 2: Department of Virology, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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