Antibody titers against St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLE) measured by a plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT) decreased rapidly in house finches (Capodacus mexicanus) after initial infection, whereas antibodies measured by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) remained detectable in all birds for the length of the experiment, indicating long-term persistence and greater assay sensitivity of the EIA. After 52 wk, birds were challenged by subcutaneous inoculation with the same strain of SLE virus. Virus was not detected for 1–4 d postchallenge in blood samples tested by plaque assay and RT-PCR or by xenodiagnosis in Culex tarsalis fed concurrently and then held for 11 d at 26°C. Virus was detected by all three methods in control birds infected concurrently for the first time. Challenge with SLE produced a rapid and marked ananmestic rise in both neutralizing and EIA antibody titers that exceeded the primary response in the same birds or in concurrently inoculated control birds. At necropsy 4 wk postchallenge, 3 of 7 challenged and 1of 2 positive control birds were chronically infected, with viral RNA detected by RT-PCR in brain, spleen, lung, and/or kidney tissues. Our results indicated that persistence of protective antibody prevents reinfection during the following season and may prevent the recrudescence of infectious virus in chronically infected birds.
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