Methods to discriminate primary from secondary dengue during acute symptomatic infection

Thi Hanh Tien Nguyen, Hannah E. Clapham, Khanh Lam Phung, Thanh Kieu Nguyen, The Trung DInh, Than Ha Quyen Nguyen, Van Ngoc Tran, Stephen Whitehead, Cameron Simmons, Marcel Wolbers, Bridget Wills

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Background: Dengue virus infection results in a broad spectrum of clinical outcomes, ranging from asymptomatic infection through to severe dengue. Although prior infection with another viral serotype, i.e. secondary dengue, is known to be an important factor influencing disease severity, current methods to determine primary versus secondary immune status during the acute illness do not consider the rapidly evolving immune response, and their accuracy has rarely been evaluated against an independent gold standard. Methods: Two hundred and ninety-three confirmed dengue patients were classified as experiencing primary, secondary or indeterminate infections using plaque reduction neutralisation tests performed 6months after resolution of the acute illness. We developed and validated regression models to differentiate primary from secondary dengue on multiple acute illness days, using Panbio Indirect IgG and in-house capture IgG and IgM ELISA measurements performed on over 1000 serial samples obtained during acute illness. Results: Cut-offs derived for the various parameters demonstrated progressive change (positively or negatively) by day of illness. Using these time varying cut-offs it was possible to determine whether an infection was primary or secondary on single specimens, with acceptable performance. The model using Panbio Indirect IgG responses and including an interaction with illness day showed the best performance throughout, although with some decline in performance later in infection. Models based on in-house capture IgG levels, and the IgM/IgG ratio, also performed well, though conversely performance improved later in infection. Conclusions: For all assays, the best fitting models estimated a different cut-off value for different days of illness, confirming how rapidly the immune response changes during acute dengue. The optimal choice of assay will vary depending on circumstance. Although the Panbio Indirect IgG model performs best early on, the IgM/IgG capture ratio may be preferred later in the illness course.

Original languageEnglish
Article number375
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Algorithms
  • Dengue
  • IgG
  • IgM
  • Immune status

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