Although immune responses to the Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV), and the dengue viruses (DENV) have a potential to modulate the immune responses to each other, this has been poorly investigated. Therefore, we developed an ELISA to identify JEV specific, DENV non cross-reactive antibody responses by identifying JEV specific, highly conserved regions of the virus and proceeded to investigate if the presence of JEV specific antibodies associate with dengue disease severity.
22 JEV specific peptides were identified from highly conserved regions of the virus and the immunogenicity and specificity of these peptides were assessed in individuals who were non-immune to JEV and DENV (JEV-DENV-, N = 30), those who were only immune to the JEV and not DENV (JEV+DENV-, N = 30), those who were only immune to DENV(JEV-DENV+, N = 30) and in those who were immune to both viruses (JEV+DENV+, N = 30). 7/22 peptides were found to be highly immunogenic and specific and these 7 peptides were used as a pool to further evaluate JEV-specific responses. All 30/30 JEV+DENV- and 30/30 JEV+DENV+ individuals, and only 3/30 (10%) JEV-DENV+ individuals responded to this pool. We further evaluated this pool of 7 peptides in patients following primary and secondary dengue infection during the convalescent period and found that the JEV-specific peptides, were unlikely to cross react with DENV IgG antibodies. We further compared this in-house ELISA developed with the peptide pool with an existing commercial JEV IgG assay to identify JEV-specific IgG following vaccination, and our in-house ELISA was found to be more sensitive. We then proceeded to investigate if the presence of JEV-specific antibodies were associated with dengue disease severity, and we found that those who had past severe dengue (n = 175) were significantly more likely (p<0.0001) to have JEV-specific antibodies than those with past non-severe dengue (n = 175) (OR 5.3, 95% CI 3.3 to 8.3).
As our data show that this assay is highly sensitive and specific for detection of JEV-specific antibody responses, it would be an important tool to determine how JEV seropositivity modulate dengue immunity and disease severity when undertaking dengue vaccine trials.