Vaccine-Preventable Disease Serology Section


Kelly McPhail, Microbiologist III
Kansas Health and Environmental Laboratories
6810 SE Dwight Street
Topeka, KS 66620
Telephone Number: 785-296-1644


Vaccine-Preventable Disease Serology

Measles (Rubeola), Mumps, Varicella Zoster (VZV)

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Infection with viral agents can sometimes be confirmed by the patient's antibody response. Isolation of a suspected agent is not always possible because of improper timing or method of specimen collection, inadequate transport conditions, or contamination of the specimen. Even if isolation is possible, the time to detection in cell culture may require up to 2 to 7 days for Measles (Rubeola) or Mumps. Timely serological testing may provide useful evidence for the presence or absence of infection or indicate previous exposure to the suspect agent. Unfortunately, serological testing cannot distinguish vaccine-associated antibody from naturally-acquired antibody. Therefore, the widespread use of vaccines against Measles and Mumps complicates the interpretation of serological results.

The detection of specific IgM antibody in acute serum provides strong evidence of current infection in the unvaccinated individual, especially in the absence of detectable specific IgG antibody. The presence of specific IgG in acute serum indicates previous exposure. However, test results of a single serum specimen are usually diagnostically insignificant. Analysis of paired acute and convalescent serum is required to confirm of a recent infection. Acute serum specimens should be collected within 3 to 7 days after onset of symptoms. Convalescent specimens should be collected at 1 to 4 weeks after the acute specimen. Acute specimens will be tested within 2 business days of receipt by KHEL. If a convalescent specimen is later received, the paired sera will be tested simultaneously to compare antibody response.

The following table shows the serological tests offered by KHEL for the agents listed. (See Rubella Immune Status for Rubella screening information).

VACCINE-PREVENTABLE DISEASE SEROLOGICAL TEST METHODS

Types of Disease/Agent

Etiological Agent

Test Method(s)

Neurotropic

Measles
Mumps

ELISA - IgG, IgM
ELISA - IgG, IgM

Parotitis

Mumps

ELISA - IgG, IgM

Rash, Maculopapular

Measles

ELISA - IgG, IgM

NOTE: Measles, Mumps, and Chicken Pox (Varicella Zoster) are reportable diseases in Kansas. State law requires a telephone report within 4 hours of suspect or confirmed cases of Measles or Mumps. Contact the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention toll-free at (877) 427-7317 or fax reports toll-free to (785) 877-427-7318.

See the Laboratory Quick Reference Guide for detailed information on the available assays.