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Extremely low exposure of a community to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus: false seropositivity due to use of bacterially derived antigens.


ABSTRACT: Estimates of seropositivity to a new infectious agent in a community are useful to public health. For severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the figures are conflicting. Herein, we screened 12,000 people in a community stricken by SARS 10 months previously and found 53 individuals (0.44%) who had immunoglobulin G antibodies to the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) nucleocapsid (N) produced in bacteria. However, only seven of these (group 1) had sera which also reacted with the native N antigen expressed in SARS-CoV-infected Vero cells, N-transfected 293T cells, and tissues of infected SARS patients. Of these, six individuals had had SARS previously. The remaining person, as well as the 46 other individuals (group 2), were healthy and had no history of SARS. Group 1 antibodies recognized epitopes located slightly differently in N from those of group 2 antibodies, and a mouse hybridoma antibody resembling the former type was generated. Unusually, group 2 antibodies appeared to recognize cross-reactive bacterial epitopes that presumably were posttranslationally modified in eukaryotes and hence were probably not induced by SARS-CoV or related coronaviruses but rather by bacteria. The N antigen is thus highly unique. The extremely low rate (0.008%) of asymptomatic SARS infection found attests to the high virulence of the SARS-CoV virus.

SUBMITTER: Leung DT 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC1563915 | BioStudies | 2006-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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