AIMS--To develop an immunosorbent agglutination assay for the detection of Toxoplasma gondii IgE antibodies (IgE-ISAGA); to assess its specificity; and to determine the role of specific IgE in the diagnosis of current toxoplasma infection. METHODS--Rabbit antihuman IgE capture antibody was adsorbed onto microtitre plates and formaldehyde fixed tachyzoites were used to identify specific antibody. Specificity was assessed in 513 serum samples (blood donor, potentially interfering and difficult, elevated and low total IgE and myeloma). Serum samples (n = 108) from 65 patients with documented toxoplasmosis were tested, as were 26 serum samples from nine pregnant women positive for specific IgM and 30 from 20 HIV positive patients. RESULTS--IgE-ISAGA was highly specific with only three of 513 (0.58%) positive reactions amongst the control groups, one of which (0.19%) was regarded as a false positive. Elevated total IgE did not influence specific IgE results nor did the presence of abnormal immunoglobulin concentrations. Sixty (92.3%) patients with toxoplasma associated lymphadenopathy had specific IgE in one or more samples. Positive or borderline results were obtained in 68 of 77 (88.3%) serum samples taken up to four months after onset and were also detected for up to 11 months in 21 of 31 (67.7%) sera. Of the nine pregnant women with detectable specific IgM, specific IgE was absent in five (12 specimens). Specific IgE was also detected in 10 of 30 (33.3%) serum samples from the 20 HIV positive patients, which was similar to the number with specific IgM. Neither the specific IgE nor IgM tests could distinguish symptomatic from asymptomatic HIV positive patients. CONCLUSIONS--IgE-ISAGA is sensitive, specific, and easy to perform. Although results suggest that specific IgE may be less helpful than previously claimed, specific IgE has a useful role in the diagnosis of current toxoplasma infection when used in conjunction with other tests.
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