An IgG avidity assay was developed to differentiate deer mice that had recently acquired Sin Nombre virus (SNV) from those that were infected in the distant past. Using this procedure, low avidity antibodies were predominantly detected in experimentally infected deer mice (89.5%) within the first 30 days post-inoculation. The assay was then applied to sera from naturally infected deer mice collected during a field investigation associated with a cluster of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome cases. A higher proportion of seropositive mice collected during the outbreak had serum with low avidity antibodies (16.7%) when compared with mice trapped four months later (5.7%). Sin Nombre virus RNA was detectable in blood in a similar fraction of low- (45%) and high- (38.7%) avidity groups. Non-adult mice were more likely to contain low-avidity antibodies (44.4%) than were adults (9.6%). Our results indicate that the IgG avidity assay shows promise as a tool to better characterize epizootic intensity and to identify factors involved in SNV transmission.
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