Three serological methods, radioimmunoassay (RIA), latex agglutination (LX), and counter-current immunoelectrophoresis (CIEP), for sensitivity in the detection of the capsular polysaccharide antigen of Haemophilus influenzae type b or Neisseria meningitidis groups A and C were compared. RIA was consistently the most sensitive, LX the next, and CIEP the least sensitive. When RIA and LX were used to test cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples of patients with meningitis, they gave very similar results. In only two out of 47 samples, in which RIA detected one of the three antigens, was the amount of the specific polysaccharide too low to be detected by LX. By the serological methods we could detect evidence of specific pathogen in 49 samples, including nine from patients who had received intensive antimicrobial treatment for up to three days and from whom specimens yielded no bacteria on culture. The reactions were specific in all cases except two out of 47 tests positive by LX. From these two CSF samples N. meningitidis group B could be cultivated, whereas the LX was recorded positive for N. meningitidis of group A in one case, and of group C in the other. The nonspecific reactions could be due to antibodies to bacterial components other than the capsular polysaccharide.
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