AIMS--To modify and evaluate a gelatin particle agglutination test that could provide a sensitive, specific and inexpensive method for the detection of HTLV-I antibody in dried blood spot samples (DBS) collected on filter paper. METHODS--A set of 26 reference samples confirmed as HTLV-I antibody positive were assembled from patients with tropical spastic paraparesis or adult T cell leukaemia and blood donors. Serum samples and simulated antibody positive dried blood spot eluates were tested using the Serodia assay together with two confirmatory tests: HTLV BLOT 2.3, a western blot, and Select-HTLV, an enzyme immunoassay (EIA). Both confirmatory tests use synthetic peptides to differentiate between antibodies to HTLV-I and -II. The modified Serodia assay was then used to test anonymously 10,135 DBS collected from neonates from London. Samples reactive in the modified Serodia test producing a positive result were titrated to an end point and confirmed as before. RESULTS--All 26 eluates made from simulated DBS derived from positive reference samples were identified as positive by the modified Serodia HTLV-I test and were confirmed as anti-HTLV-I positive by EIA. Two eluates derived from relatively low titre reference samples gave indeterminate results on western blotting. Screening of the 10,135 neonatal DBS resulted in six repeat reactives, five of which were confirmed. The remaining reactive sample gave an indeterminate result on western blotting and there was insufficient eluate for testing by EIA. The overall seroprevalence of HTLV-I in this population was 0.05% (five of 10,135). CONCLUSION--The modified Serodia HTLV-I assay provides a sensitive, specific and inexpensive (10 pence/test) method for screening large numbers of DBS. The format of the assay makes it ideally suited for simultaneous screening of antibodies to HIV-1, HIV-2 and HTLV-I using semi-automated equipment.
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