Assessment of immune response to meningococcal disease: comparison of a whole-blood assay and the serum bactericidal assay.
Ison CA., Anwar N., Cole MJ., Galassini R., Heyderman RS., Klein NJ., West J., Pollard AJ., Morley S., Levin and the Meningococcal RE.
A whole-blood assay (WBA), which assesses the complete bactericidal activity of blood, was compared with the serum bactericidal assay (SBA), which measures antibody and complement mediated cell lysis. Twenty children infected with serogroup B strains and 25 infected with serogroup C strains were studied 8-12 weeks after disease, and 29 healthy children were used as controls. The infecting strain (convalescent children only) and two reference strains, MC58 (B:15:P1.7, 16) and NCTC 8554 (C:NT:P1.5) were used. In children previously infected with a serogroup B strain, bactericidal activity was detected in 95% and 85% to their infecting strain by the WBA (>50% killing) and the SBA (s), respectively. Bactericidal activity to the reference serogroup B and C strain was detected by WBA in 70 and 75% of children, respectively, and the SBA in 45% and 20%. In contrast bactericidal activity was detected to both serogroup C strains in >80% of children previously infected with a serogroup C strain using either assay and in 48% (WBA) and 20% (SBA) to the reference serogroup B strain. Levels of bactericidal activity were detectable in fewer control children. Children convalescing from meningococcal disease develop an immune response to their infecting strain, detectable by both the WBA and SBA, which is independent of age. However, the WBA appears to be a more sensitive measure of bactericidal activity to heterologous strains than the SBA.