A standardisation process, already developed during the earlier European Sero-Epidemiology Network (ESEN) project, was employed with a more robust algorithm to harmonise results of pertussis serological assays performed in 12 European and non-European countries. Initially, results from each country's own assay were compared with those obtained at the reference laboratory by means of an in-house pertussis toxin (PT)-based ELISA: seven countries used in-house or commercial PT-ELISAs; the other countries used assays based on Bordetella pertussis whole cell extracts (WCE) (three countries) or on combined PT-FHA (filamentous haemagglutinin) antigenic preparations (two countries). The WCE assays, although admitted for diagnostic purposes, confirmed their low correlation with the PT-ELISAs and their results could not be used for standardisation; the PT-FHA ELISAs gave results that were suitable for standardisation in one country but unsatisfactory in the other; the use of purified PT in serological assays confirmed its better reliability than other preparations and all PT-ELISAs results could be calibrated against those of the reference centre. In the standardisation process two high-titre cut-offs indicative of likelihood of recent infection (from within 4 weeks of disease onset up to 1 year after) were included for evaluations as they are suggested to be more useful, for the sero-epidemiological assays of immunity to pertussis, than the cut-off of protection, commonly employed, but still not defined for pertussis. Providing PT-ELISAs are used, standardisation of pertussis assay results is always possible and, when standardisation is performed, evaluation and comparison of the impact of different interventions can be also allowed, by measuring at the distribution of high antibody titres in the populations.
- ESEN (European Sero-Epidemiology Network)
- Immunoassay standardisation
- Pertussis antigenic preparations
- Pertussis sero-epidemiology