Background The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the development of simple, safe, sensitive and specific neutralization assays for avian influenza antibodies. We have used retroviral pseudotypes bearing influenza H5 hemagglutinin (HA) as safe, surrogate viruses for influenza neutralization assays which can be carried out at Biosafety Level 2.
Results Using our assay, sera from patients who had recovered from infection with influenza H5N1, and sera from animals experimentally immunized or infected with H5 tested positive for the presence of neutralizing antibodies to H5N1. Pseudotype neutralizing antibody titers were compared with titers obtained by hemagglutinin inhibition (HI) assays and microneutralization (MN) assays using live virus, and showed a high degree of correlation, sensitivity and specificity.
Conclusions The pseudotype neutralization assay is as sensitive as horse erythrocyte HI and MN for the detection of antibodies to H5N1. It is safer, and can be applied in a high-throughput format for human and animal surveillance and for the evaluation of vaccines.