Current methods for the serodiagnosis of sheep fascioliasis show suboptimal sensitivity, specificity, or both. With the aim of developing an improved method, we fractionated native Fasciola hepatica excretory–secretory antigens (ESAs) by size-exclusion FPLC (fast protein liquid chromatography) on a Superdex™ 75 HR 10/30 column and then tested the serodiagnostic value of the antigens contained in each one of the 4 peaks obtained (peaks I–IV). Serodiagnostic value was assessed using sera from sheep naturally infected with F. hepatica (group A); sera from the individuals of a fluke-free herd (most of which also had other intestinal nematodes, lung nematodes, Moniezia spp., and/or Cysticercus tenuicollis) sera from a fluke-free herd (group B); sera from lambs experimentally infected with 10–40 F. hepatica metacercariae (group C); and sera from uninfected control lambs (group D). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) with peak I or II as target antigens (and to a lesser extent with peak III as target) showed reactivity with negative sera, so that it was not possible to establish cutoff values discriminating infected and uninfected animals. In contrast, when peak IV was used as target, a low cutoff value of 0.235 optical density units (mean 4 SD) discriminated infected and uninfected animals, with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity. ELISA with peak IV as a target identified infected animals (even animals that had received only 10 metacercariae) within 3–5 wk of infection and subsequently throughout the rest of the 14-wk monitoring period. In Western blotting analysis, again only the antigens contained in peak IV (range 7–40 kDa, under reducing conditions) were specific for diagnosis of infected animals. These results indicate that molecular sieving of F. hepatica ESAs by this procedure is a fast, simple, reproducible way of obtaining antigens useful for serodiagnosis of sheep fascioliasis.
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