An M-antibody capture radioimmunoassay (MACRIA) for anti-rubella IgM was developed. Under optimum conditions positive serum specimens bound up to 20 times as much radioactivity as negative specimens. Positive reactions were expressed in arbitrary units/ml by comparison with a calibration curve derived from results obtained with dilutions of a standard serum.
The specificity of the assay was confirmed by testing IgM and IgG rich fractions of positive sera. One hundred and forty specimens from blood donors, patients whose sera contained rheumatoid factor and patients with acute, non-rubella, virus infections were tested by MACRIA. No significant non-specific reactions were detected.
Paired sera from acute rubella (25 patients) and individual sera from suspected rubella (69 patients) were tested for anti-rubella IgM by MACRIA and by haemagglutination inhibition following sucrose-density-gradient fractionation. There was close agreement between the two methods. The capture assay was more sensitive and could be used to detect the weak IgM response in women given RA 27/3 vaccine. After the natural infection, the MACRIA was strongly positive for two months and remained weakly so for a further two months. Repeat testing of sera demonstrated good reproducibility of the assay.
MACRIA proved a simple, sensitive and specific test for anti-rubella IgM and compared favourably with currently used techniques.