During the fall of 1981, a new method for the routine isolation and identification of dengue viruses in Puerto Rico was implemented utilizing C6/36 cell cultures and serotype specific antidengue monoclonal antibodies. A blind comparison of the monoclonal antibody indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT) and the complement fixation (CF) test for identification of 89 newly isolated dengue viruses of all four serotypes from the Caribbean, Asia and Africa showed 100% agreement. Although virus isolation rates were slightly lower than with the mosquito inoculation technique, use of the C6/36 cell culture system was much less time-consuming and allowed the processing of larger numbers of sera. Beginning in November 1981, a new virologic surveillance system was begun in Puerto Rico. Acute sera from persons with suspected dengue were selected for virus isolation attempts on the basis of geographic area of residence on the island, day after onset the blood was taken and clinical signs and symptoms. These sera were processed for virus isolation in C6/36 cell cultures, and virus isolates were identified by the IFAT using the monoclonal antibodies. Using this system, 2,702 sera were tested from November 1981 through August 1982. Dengue virus was isolated from 518, for an isolation rate of 19.2%. Dengue 1 was the predominant virus until December 1981, when dengue 4 became dominant. The changing patterns of dengue 1 and 4 distribution by time and geographic location on Puerto Rico were followed. This system allows the dengue viruses being transmitted in an area to be monitored with a minimal amount of effort and provides the early warning capability necessary to predict epidemic dengue.
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