OBJECTIVE--To measure antibody titres to cardiac, nuclear, and streptococcal antigens in different groups of rheumatic fever (n = 60) and control subjects (n = 80) with the aim of identifying cross reactive antigens of potential laboratory diagnostic value. METHODS--Enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), immunocytochemical, and electrophoretic techniques were used to measure titres of antibodies to a variety of cardiac, nuclear, and streptococcal antigens in seven groups comprising patients with rheumatic fever and control subjects. RESULTS--Increased concentrations of antibodies to several streptococcal and cardiac antigens, in addition to increased IgA and IgG levels, were noted in sera from patients with acute rheumatic fever and chronic rheumatic heart disease. Autoantibodies to nuclear antigens were evident in three rheumatic fever sera. CONCLUSION--Although we were unable to identify any unique cross reactivity between cardiac and streptococcal antigens, these results demonstrate that there is an exaggerated humoral response to several cardiac, nuclear and streptococcal antigens in patients with rheumatic fever.
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