Quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays detecting IgM to the soluble Mycobacterium leprae crude sonicate (CD75) and the synthetic disaccharide antigen coupled to bovine serum albumin (ND-BSA) were assessed for their ability to determine early infection in families/household contacts of leprosy patients and employees of a leprosy center working in close contact with leprosy patients. Although IgM to both antigens (CD75 and ND-BSA) correlated with the bacterial index (BI) assessed histologically on skin-biopsy samples, the level of IgM antibodies to ND-BSA was a much more sensitive indicator of low bacterial loads. A 4.4-fold difference in antibody level was observed between the mean group levels of endemic controls (N = 116) and tuberculoid leprosy patients with a BI of 1 (N = 88), increasing to sevenfold in tuberculoid leprosy patients with a BI of 1 (N = 20). Using a statistical cut off with endemic controls (mean + 2 S.D.), household/family contacts showed 30% seropositivity (N = 180) as compared to staff contacts who showed 17% seropositivity (N = 55). Percent seropositivity in family contacts was not related to the type of leprosy of the index case (lepromatous vs. tuberculoid) or the duration of treatment of the index case. Age of the individual in the family contact group had a significant influence on seropositivity. These results support the hypothesis that, in this community, factors other than the viable bacterial load of the index case, such as genetic susceptibility, may be influencing the high rate of seropositivity in family contacts. IgM ND-BSA antibodies seem to provide a good indicator of low antigenic loads and could prove to be useful in detecting subclinical infection before the onset of disease. Follow-up studies of these seropositive individuals are in progress to understand the relationship between seropositivity and the progress of clinical disease.
|Number of pages
|International Journal of Leprosy
|Published - 1990