Early and accurate diagnosis of dengue infection is essential for control of disease outbreaks. Recently, the dengue virus non-structural antigen 1 (NS1), a conserved and secreted glycoprotein, has been used as a marker for early diagnosis of dengue with convenience and cost-effectiveness. Serological tests of dengue IgM and IgG antibodies are still the most widely used for diagnosis of dengue. In order to assess combined diagnostic value of these tests, we study the kinetic profiles of circulating NS1, dengue IgM and IgG antibodies over the course of the disease by using an in-house dengue type 1 (DENV1) specific NS1 capture ELISA and the commercial Panbio Dengue IgM and IgG capture ELISAs.
A panel of 313 acute-and early convalescent-phase serum specimens from 140 DENV1 primary infected patients during an outbreak of dengue in Guangzhou, China, in 2006 were studied. Dengue NS1 presented high levels in acute-phase serum samples. It was detectable as early as day 1 of illness, and up to 14 day after onset. The sensitivity of NS1 detection was ranged from 81.8% to 91.1% with samples taken during the first 7 days. Anti-dengue IgM antibody was detectable on the third day of onset with the positive rate of 42.9%, and rapidly increasing to 100% by day 8 of illness. Anti-dengue IgG antibody was detectable on the fifth day of onset with low level at the first week of onset, and slowly increasing to 100% by day 15 of illness. Combining the results of NS1 and IgM antibody detection allowed positive diagnosis in 96.9%-100% for samples taken after day 3 of onset.
Dengue NS1 detection might shorten the window period by first few days of illness. A combination of dengue NS1 antigen and IgM antibody testing facilitates enhanced diagnosis rates. The procedures should be suitable for developing countries where dengue is endemic.