A systematic review of current immunological tests for the diagnosis of cattle brucellosis
Brucellosis is a worldwide extended zoonosis with a heavy economic and public health impact. Cattle, sheep and goats are infected by smooth Brucella abortus and Brucella melitensis, and represent a common source of the human disease. Brucellosis diagnosis in these animals is largely based on detection of a specific immunoresponse. We review here the immunological tests used for the diagnosis of cattle brucellosis. First, we discuss how the diagnostic sensitivity (DSe) and specificity (DSp), balance should be adjusted for brucellosis diagnosis, and the difficulties that brucellosis tests specifically present for the estimation of DSe/DSp in frequentistic (gold standard) and Bayesian analyses. Then, we present a systematic review (PubMed, GoogleScholar and CABdirect) of works (154 out of 991; years 1960-August 2017) identified (by title and Abstract content) as DSe and DSp studies of smooth lipopolysaccharide, O-polysaccharide-core, native hapten and protein diagnostic tests. We summarize data of gold standard studies (n = 23) complying with strict inclusion and exclusion criteria with regards to test methodology and definition of the animals studied (infected and S19 or RB51 vaccinated cattle, and Brucella-free cattle affected or not by false positive serological reactions). We also discuss some studies (smooth lipopolysaccharide tests, protein antibody and delayed type hypersensitivity [skin] tests) that do not meet the criteria and yet fill some of the gaps in information. We review Bayesian studies (n = 5) and report that in most cases priors and assumptions on conditional dependence/independence are not coherent with the variable serological picture of the disease in different epidemiological scenarios and the bases (antigen, isotype and immunoglobulin properties involved) of brucellosis tests, practical experience and the results of gold standard studies. We conclude that very useful lipopolysaccharide (buffered plate antigen and indirect ELISA) and native hapten polysaccharide and soluble protein tests exist, provided they are applied taking into account the means available and the epidemiological contexts of this disease: i) mass vaccination; ii) elimination based on vaccination combined with test-and-slaughter; and iii) surveillance and existence of false positive serological reactions. We also conclude that the insistence in recent literature on the lack of usefulness of all smooth lipopolysaccharide or native hapten polysaccharide tests in areas where S19 vaccination is implemented is a misinterpretation that overlooks scientific and practical evidence.