Detection and cross-reaction of Dirofilaria repens using a commercial heartworm antigen test kit
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Antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay tests are widely used for the diagnosis of heartworm infection in dogs. While commercially-available heartworm antigen tests have high sensitivity and specificity, false-negative test results can occur in dogs with low worm burdens, female-only infections, or prior to patency. The use of immune complex dissociation (ICD) methods have demonstrated increased sensitivity in the detection of Dirofilaria immitis antigens and the reversal of false-negative antigen results. However, there are concerns pertaining to false-positive antigen results due to infections of other nematode parasites, especially post-ICD. Therefore, this study evaluated the effect of heat-treatment on serum samples of dogs experimentally-infected with Dirofilaria repens during the course of infection, to assess for potential cross-reactivity on heartworm antigen tests. Archived serum samples from three dogs experimentally-infected with D. repens were utilized. All samples were tested for cross-reactivity pre- and post-heat-treatment using the DiroCHEK® Heartworm Antigen test kit throughout infection (day -9 through 404 days post-infection; dpi). All heat-treated samples tested false-positive starting at 164 dpi and continuing through 404 dpi, thereby testing positive prior to patency. No cross-reactivity was observed for any dog at any time point prior to heat-treatment. Our results suggest that the ICD method decreased the specificity of heartworm antigen tests and caused cross-reactivity of serum from dogs experimentally infected with D. repens. In conclusion, heat-treatment of serum in areas co-endemic for D. repens and D. immitis has limited clinical value, and should be used with caution.
author list (cited authors)
Sobotyk, C., Savadelis, M. D., & Verocai, G. G.