Confirmatory Testing Demonstrates That False-Positive Rates in the Chlamydiazyme Assay are Influenced by Gender and Genital Specimen Type
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Chlamydia trachomatis antigen testing of clinical specimens is replacing culture as the test of choice. Because of a potential for false positive results in low prevalence populations, there is an apparent need for confirming specimens positive by enzyme immunoassay (EIA). GOAL OF THIS STUDY: To examine specimens falsely positive in the Chlamydiazyme EIA assay according to gender and specimen type. STUDY DESIGN: Testing of genitourinary specimens from men and women consecutively enrolled from five health care delivery sources in an urban Canadian population. All specimens were initially tested in the Chlamydiazyme test and all positives repeated in a confirmatory blocking assay provided by the manufacturer. Additional confirmatory testing was performed using immunofluorescence (IF) staining for C. trachomatis elementary bodies (EB's) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). RESULTS: From Jan. 1, 1990 to June 1, 1991, multiple specimens from 656 men and 5,628 women of varying population prevalences were screened. EIA-positive specimens from women had a repeat negative rate of 22% to 27% from cervical swabs and 29% from urethral swabs. Male urethral swabs had a high repeat negative rate of 22% when EIA was the only positive test, but 2.4% when the specimen was positive by EIA and culture. EIA-positive first void urine (FVU) specimens from men had a repeat negative rate of 8.7% as opposed to 17% to 32% from women. Only 1.7% (2/115) of male FVU did not block compared to rates of 47% (22/47) to 80% (4/5) in FVU from women. Analysis of EIA optical densities (OD's) and EB counts showed an association between the absorbance range 0.1 to 1.4 OD and 0-85 EB's. The greatest number of EB's and highest OD's were seen with cervical specimens, followed by urine and urethral specimens in women infected at all three specimens. All 55 specimens that did not confirm in the blocking test had no EB's and a convenience sample of seven were negative by PCR. All of a subset of 50 blocked specimens contained EB's or were positive by PCR. CONCLUSIONS: Although a variable proportion of specimens may not repeat positive in the EIA, use of the blocking reagent to confirm the repeat positives is highly recommended and the rate of blocking may be heavily influenced by gender and specimen type.