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The dot enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (Dot-ELISA) was compared to the microscopic agglutination test (MA test) for the diagnosis of human leptospirosis. Of 177 sera from 68 soldiers who trained in the Republic of Panama, 102 sera were positive in the MA test and 93 of these sera were positive in the IgM-specific Dot-ELISA. Incidence of infection was 50 of 68 patients with the MA test and 48 of 68 in the IgM Dot-ELISA. Five MA test-positive sera were reactive only in the IgG-specific Dot-ELISA, suggesting previous exposure. All 21 infecting serovars of Leptospira interrogans, as determined by positive reactions in the MA test or culture of blood and urine specimens, were reactive in the Dot-ELISA. Of 75 sera negative in the MA test, 61 were nonreactive in the Dot-ELISA. However, 9 of these 14 Dot-ELISA-positive/MA test-negative sera were acute samples from patients whose later sera were MA test-positive. Positive reactions in the IgM Dot-ELISA occurred in 2 of 30 control, 4 of 10
Lyme disease, 1 of 11 relapsing fever, and 1 of 8 yaws sera; 10 syphilis patient sera were nonreactive. The IgM-specific Dot-ELISA appears to be sensitive and specific for the serodiagnosis of acute leptospirosis. In addition, this rapid test is inexpensive, simple to perform, utilizes minute volumes of killed leptospiral antigen and is easily adaptable to field use.