Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HPS) has gained importance in Latin America as an emerging disease, with reports of about 4000 HPS cases; however, this is probably an underestimate because of limited surveillance programs and diagnostic tools to confirm HPS. In order to address this issue and develop better serosurveillance capability, we evaluated three recombinant peptides from the Necoclí virus (NECV) nucleocapsid in antibody-capture ELISA. We cloned and expressed antigens representing the whole NECV nucleocapsid protein (NECV-rN), the immunodominant domain (NECV-rN100), and a serospecific domain (NECV-rN428), and then we compared these antigens in ELISA to detect IgG antibodies to NECV in human sera. We evaluated human sera collected during two epidemiological studies from the area where NECV was discovered. The first group included 609 sera from healthy individuals, and the second one included 89 samples from patients with undifferentiated febrile illness. In these two groups, hantavirus infection had previously been determined by the presence of IgG to Maciel virus (MCLV), a hantavirus closely related to NECV. The number of IgG-positive sera was higher using the Necoclí ELISA with the rN100 protein, which detected antibodies in a higher percentage of healthy individuals, 129/609 (21.2%), as well as in febrile patients, 11/89 (12.3%). In contrast, using MCLV ELISA, 8 of 609 (1.3%) and 4 of 89 (4.5%) samples from healthy and febrile patients, respectively, were seropositive. The agreement between the NECV and MCLV ELISA assays was ≥ 82.3%; however, the kappa indices were weak but statistically significant for rN (0.251 CI; 0.138-0.365) and rN100rN (0.153 CI; 0.084-0.223). The weak kappa indices were attributed to decreased MCLV ELISA assay sensitivity. These results suggest that NECV rN and rN100 have increased specificity and could be further validated for improved diagnosis of hantavirus infections.
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