Study of coronavirus OC43 infections has been limited because of the lack of sensitive cell culture systems and serologic assays. To improve this circumstance, we developed an indirect enzyme immunoassay (EIA) to detect serum antibody to OC43. Antigen (100 ng) prepared by polyethylene glycol precipitation provided optimal results without a postcoat procedure. Evaluation of intraplate variation indicated that a ≥2.5-fold increase in serum titer was significant. Sixteen of 18 (89%) paired serum samples with previously identified, reproducible increases in the level of hemagglutination inhibition (HAI) antibody to OC43 also showed significant increases as detected by EIA. Specificity for the EIA was established with paired sera obtained from persons given influenza immunizations or experiencing a respiratory infection. No rises in antibody titers occurred among 33 persons with documented coronavirus 229E infection. EIA was then performed on each of 419 paired serum samples from ambulatory chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients and healthy older adults, from asthmatic adults presenting for emergency room treatment, and from persons hospitalized with acute respiratory symptoms. Twenty-three antibody rises to OC43 were detected; only nine of these were detected by the HAI test, and the HAI test did not detect any increases in antibody titers that were not detected by EIA. Nineteen of 25 coronavirus OC43 infections for which a month of infection could be assigned occurred between November and February. Overall, 4.4% of acute respiratory illnesses in the studied populations were associated with a coronavirus OC43 infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)