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New diagnostic tests for the etiology of childhood pneumonia are needed. We evaluated the antibody-in-lymphocyte supernatant (ALS) assay to detect immunoglobulin (Ig) G secretion from ex vivo peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) culture, as a potential diagnostic test for pneumococcal pneumonia. We enrolled 348 children with pneumonia admitted to Patan Hospital, Kathmandu, Nepal between December 2015 and September 2016. PBMCs sampled from participants were incubated for 48 h before harvesting of cell culture supernatant (ALS). We used a fluorescence-based multiplexed immunoassay to measure the concentration of IgG in ALS against five conserved pneumococcal protein antigens. Of children with pneumonia, 68 had a confirmed etiological diagnosis: 12 children had pneumococcal pneumonia (defined as blood or pleural fluid culture-confirmed; or plasma CRP concentration ≥60 mg/l and nasopharyngeal carriage of serotype 1 pneumococci), and 56 children had non-pneumococcal pneumonia. Children with non-pneumococcal pneumonia had either a bacterial pathogen isolated from blood (six children); or C-reactive protein <60 mg/l, absence of radiographic consolidation and detection of a pathogenic virus by multiplex PCR (respiratory syncytial virus, influenza viruses, or parainfluenza viruses; 23 children). Concentrations of ALS IgG to all five pneumococcal proteins were significantly higher in children with pneumococcal pneumonia than in children with non-pneumococcal pneumonia. The concentration of IgG in ALS to the best-performing antigen discriminated between children with pneumococcal and non-pneumococcal pneumonia with a sensitivity of 1.0 (95% CI 0.73-1.0), specificity of 0.66 (95% CI 0.52-0.78) and area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve (AUROCC) 0.85 (95% CI 0.75-0.94). Children with pneumococcal pneumonia were older than children with non-pneumococcal pneumonia (median 5.6 and 2.0 years, respectively, p < 0.001). When the analysis was limited to children ≥2 years of age, assay of IgG ALS to pneumococcal proteins was unable to discriminate between children with pneumococcal pneumonia and non-pneumococcal pneumonia (AUROCC 0.67, 95% CI 0.47-0.88). This method detected spontaneous secretion of IgG to pneumococcal protein antigens from cultured PBMCs. However, when stratified by age group, assay of IgG in ALS to pneumococcal proteins showed limited utility as a test to discriminate between pneumococcal and non-pneumococcal pneumonia in children.

Original publication




Journal article


Frontiers in cellular and infection microbiology

Publication Date





Oxford Vaccine Group, Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.