The performances of a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using a group specific monoclonal antibody against bluetongue virus, an indirect ELISA and the standard agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) test were compared in the detection of serum antibody against bluetongue virus. Test sera consisted of 1300 bovine, 530 ovine and 160 carpine samples from bluetongue-free areas of Canada, 605 bovine and ovine field samples from the USA and Barbados and 464 samples from 79 cattle and sheep experimentally infected with 19 South African and five USA serotypes of bluetongue virus. The diagnostic specificity of the competitive ELISA, as determined for the bluetongue virus-free cattle sera was superior (99.92 per cent) to that of the indirect ELISA (99.85 per cent) and the AGID (99.0 per cent). The specificities of the competitive ELISA for sheep (99.63 per cent) and goats (100.0 per cent) sera were also higher than those of the AGID test. The performance of the ELISA tests was similar whether a gamma-ray-irradiated (2.0 Mrad) or a non-irradiated bluetongue virus antigen preparation was used. The competitive ELISA results for bovine field sera from endemic areas demonstrated a relatively low level of agreement (92.04 per cent) with AGID test results, with 9.7 per cent false negatives. The possible presence in these sera of antibody to cross-reacting antigens or to other orbiviruses, eg, epizootic haemorrhagic disease virus, which react in the AGID but not in the competitive ELISA may account for this lack of agreement.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
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