Improved detection of equine antibodies against Sarcocystis neurona using polyvalent ELISAs based on the parasite SnSAG surface antigens.

Abstract

Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a common neurologic disease of horses that is caused by the apicomplexan pathogen Sarcocystis neurona. To help improve serologic diagnosis of S. neurona infection, we have modified existing enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) based on the immunogenic parasite surface antigens SnSAG2, SnSAG3, and SnSAG4 to make the assays polyvalent, thereby circumventing difficulties associated with parasite antigenic variants and diversity in equine immune responses. Two approaches were utilized to achieve polyvalence: (1) mixtures of the individual recombinant SnSAGs (rSnSAGs) were included in single ELISAs; (2) a collection of unique SnSAG chimeras that fused protein domains from different SnSAG surface antigens into a single recombinant protein were generated for use in the ELISAs. These new assays were assessed using a defined sample set of equine sera and cerebrospinal fluids (CSFs) that had been characterized by Western blot and/or were from confirmed EPM horses. While all of the polyvalent ELISAs performed relatively well, the highest sensitivity and specificity (100%/100%) were achieved with assays containing the rSnSAG4/2 chimera (Domain 1 of SnSAG4 fused to SnSAG2) or using a mixture of rSnSAG3 and rSnSAG4. The rSnSAG4 antigen alone and the rSnSAG4/3 chimera (Domain 1 of SnSAG4 fused to Domain 2 of SnSAG3) exhibited the next best accuracy at 95.2% sensitivity and 100% specificity. Binding ratios and percent positivity (PP) ratios, determined by comparing the mean values for positive versus negative samples, showed that the most advantageous signal to noise ratios were provided by rSnSAG4 and the rSnSAG4/3 chimera. Collectively, our results imply that a polyvalent ELISA based on SnSAG4 and SnSAG3, whether as a cocktail of two proteins or as a single chimeric protein, can give optimal results in serologic testing of serum or CSF for the presence of antibodies against S. neurona. The use of polyvalent SnSAG ELISAs will enhance the reliability of serologic testing for S. neurona infection, which should lead to improved diagnosis of EPM.

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