<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

When viruses infect cells, they often cause damage ( cytopathic effects ) that may include lysis of the host cells. Cytopathic effects can be visualized by growing host cells in a petri dish, covering the cells with a thin layer of agar, and then adding virus (see Isolation, Culture, and Identification of Viruses ). The virus will diffuse very slowly through the agar. A virus will enter a host cell, proliferate (causing cell damage), be released from the dead host cell, and then move to neighboring cells. As more and more cells die, plaques of dead cells will form ( [link] ).

During the course of a viral infection, the patient will mount an antibody response to the virus, and we can quantify those antibodies using a plaque reduction assay . To perform the assay, a serial dilution is carried out on a serum sample. Each dilution is then mixed with a standardized amount of the suspect virus. Any virus-specific antibodies in the serum will neutralize some of the virus. The suspensions are then added to host cells in culture to allow any nonneutralized virus to infect the cells and form plaques after several days. The titer is defined as the reciprocal of the highest dilution showing a 50% reduction in plaques. Titer is always expressed as a whole number. For example, if a 1/64 dilution was the highest dilution to show 50% plaque reduction, then the titer is 64.

The presence of antibodies in the patient’s serum does not tell us whether the patient is currently infected or was infected in the past. Current infections can be identified by waiting two weeks and testing another serum sample. A four-fold increase in neutralizing titer in this second sample indicates a new infection.

A photograph of wells showing a smooth purple background with white spots.
In a neutralization assay, antibodies in patient serum neutralize viruses added to the wells, preventing the formation of plaques. In the assay pictured, the wells with numerous plaques (white patches) contain a low concentration of antibodies. The wells with relatively few plaques have a high concentration of antibodies. (credit: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • In a neutralization assay, if a patient’s serum has high numbers of antiviral antibodies, would you expect to see more or fewer plaques?


When a patient has elevated protein levels in the blood or is losing protein in the urine, a clinician will often order a polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis ( PAGE ) assay (see Visualizing and Characterizing DNA, RNA, and Protein ). This assay compares the relative abundance of the various types of serum proteins. Abnormal protein electrophoresis patterns can be further studied using immunoelectrophoresis (IEP) . The IEP begins by running a PAGE. Antisera against selected serum proteins are added to troughs running parallel to the electrophoresis track, forming precipitin arcs similar to those seen in an Ouchterlony assay ( [link] ). This allows the identification of abnormal immunoglobulin proteins in the sample.

IEP is particularly useful in the diagnosis of multiple myeloma , a cancer of antibody-secreting cells. Patients with multiple myeloma cannot produce healthy antibodies; instead they produce abnormal antibodies that are monoclonal proteins (M proteins). Thus, patients with multiple myeloma will present with elevated serum protein levels that show a distinct band in the gamma globulin region of a protein electrophoresis gel and a sharp spike (in M protein) on the densitometer scan rather than the normal broad smear ( [link] ). When antibodies against the various types of antibody heavy and light chains are used to form precipitin arcs, the M protein will cause distinctly skewed arcs against one class of heavy chain and one class of light chain as seen in [link] .

Questions & Answers

which organism is implicated in meningoencephalitis
Peter Reply
define polar bond in simple way
Rashmi Reply
Hi everyone, is these site only about microbiology? I want a site which I can download articles on hematological and biochemical profile
Peter Reply
I think it is only about micro biology.
so whats happening
I am about to enter school and am going for MCB
Olugbenga Reply
What is DNA damage and repair
Sree Reply
removal of nucleotide bases from DNA is damage n addition or insertion of bases in DNA is repair.
replication is a term related to generation of new DNA from a parental DNA.
role of microorganism as pathogens
Parteek Reply
to live inside the host body, reproduction n destroy the immune system of host body.
what is replication
please give me ans
replication is a term related to generation of new DNA from parental DNA.
difference between endotoxin and exotoxin
Binkheir Reply
toxins released inside the cell or a body is endotoxin n toxins released outside the cell or a body is exotoxin.
please I want the names of bacteria and the diseases they cause.
Ibrahim Reply
there are many we classify it according to their shapes gram negative or gram positive
so u may refer the book u guess or by when u want I can do a list for you and send u here
please do a list for me
I have the lost but it's too much to type ..
MSc entrance prepare books and questions LA etha base pani irukum..
Guhan Reply
kushal always prescott is the imp book to follow.search some objective mcqs books based on your syllabus
deepthi Reply
I want to clear entrance of ms university so I have no more idea so my preparation is based on my bachlor studies.
what are the opportunistic infection in aids stage
certain cancer or pneumonia 🤔
penicillium crysogenum
Kushal Reply
salam am also studying microbiology in university of Ilorin
Abubakar Reply
Salam am studying physiotherapy in bayaro university kano
Walaikum salam
Hw u
HRU frinds
any good reference for oncology?!!!!
Pankaj Reply
K.D tripathi
what is the microbiology
Fadumo Reply
it is the study of microorganisms
microorganis means
the organism can not be seen by eyes they can be seen with the help of microscope
microbiology is the study of microorganism and microorganism are such as bacteria ,parasite, viruses and fungi and etc.. those are cant be seen with asked eyes and can be seen with help of microscope . I hope this helps you
what is virology
Bismarck Reply
the study of viruses
what is myrology
myrology or mycology?
the study of fungi.
Mycology study fungi
study of viruses

Get the best Microbiology course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Microbiology. OpenStax CNX. Nov 01, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col12087/1.4
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Microbiology' conversation and receive update notifications?