Improvement of western blot test specificity for detecting equine serum antibodies to Sarcocystis neurona

M. G. Rossano, L. S. Mansfield, J. B. Kaneene, A. J. Murphy, C. M. Brown, H. C. Schott, J. C. Fox

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46 Scopus citations


Equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) is a neurological disease of horses and ponies caused by the apicomplexan protozoan parasite Sarcocystis neurona. The purposes of this study were to develop the most stringent criteria possible for a positive test result, to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of the EPM Western blot antibody test, and to assess the ability of bovine antibodies to Sarcocystis cruzi to act as a blocking agent to minimize false-positive results in the western blot test for S. neurona. Sarcocystis neurona merozoites harvested from equine dermal cell culture were heat denatured, and the proteins were separated by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in a 12-20% linear gradient gel. Separated proteins were electrophoretically transferred to polyvinylidene fluoride membranes and blocked in 1% bovine serum albumin and 0.5% Tween-Tris-buffered saline. Serum samples from 6 horses with S. neurona infections (confirmed by culture from neural tissue) and 57 horses without infections (horses from the Eastern Hemisphere, where S. neurona does not exist) were tested by Western blot. Horses from both groups had reactivity to the 62-, 30-, 16-, 13-, 11-, 10.5-, and 10-kD bands. Testing was repeated with another step. Blots were treated with bovine S. cruzi antibodies prior to loading the equine samples. After this modification of the Western blot test, positive infection status was significantly associated with reactivity to the 30- and 16-kD bands (P < 0.001, Fisher's exact test). The S. cruzi antibody-blocked Western blot had a sample sensitivity of 100% and sample specificity of 98%. It is concluded that the specificity of the Western blot test is improved by blocking proteins not specific to S. neurona and using reactivity to the 30- and 16-kD bands as the criterion for a positive test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-32
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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