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Comparison of results of three commercial heartworm antigen test kits in dogs with low heartworm burdens

Clarke E. Atkins DVM, DACVIM1
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

Abstract

Objective—To compare results of 3 commercial heartworm antigen test kits performed on serum samples from dogs infected with low numbers of adult female heartworms.

Design—Blinded laboratory evaluation.

Sample Population—Serum samples from dogs (n = 208) proven at necropsy to be infected with 1 to 4 adult female heartworms and from dogs (32) without heartworms.

Procedure—Samples were sequentially tested with each test kit, following the manufacturers' instructions, by licensed veterinary technicians in private practice who were not aware of infection status of the dogs. The order of test kit evaluations was randomly chosen. For each test kit, sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were evaluated.

Results—All tests yielded some false-negative results, and there were significant differences among tests in regard to ability to detect low heartworm burdens. Sensitivity of the test kits ranged from 78 to 84%. For all test kits, sensitivity increased as number of female heartworms increased. All 3 test kits had high specificity (97%).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that sensitivity of the 3 commercially available heartworm antigen test kits ranged from 78 to 84% when used to test serum samples from dogs with low heartworm burdens, and that sensitivity varied among test kits. For all 3 test kits, specificity was 97%. All 3 test kits yielded false-positive and false-negative results for some dogs with low heartworm burdens. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:1221–1223)

Abstract

Objective—To compare results of 3 commercial heartworm antigen test kits performed on serum samples from dogs infected with low numbers of adult female heartworms.

Design—Blinded laboratory evaluation.

Sample Population—Serum samples from dogs (n = 208) proven at necropsy to be infected with 1 to 4 adult female heartworms and from dogs (32) without heartworms.

Procedure—Samples were sequentially tested with each test kit, following the manufacturers' instructions, by licensed veterinary technicians in private practice who were not aware of infection status of the dogs. The order of test kit evaluations was randomly chosen. For each test kit, sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were evaluated.

Results—All tests yielded some false-negative results, and there were significant differences among tests in regard to ability to detect low heartworm burdens. Sensitivity of the test kits ranged from 78 to 84%. For all test kits, sensitivity increased as number of female heartworms increased. All 3 test kits had high specificity (97%).

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that sensitivity of the 3 commercially available heartworm antigen test kits ranged from 78 to 84% when used to test serum samples from dogs with low heartworm burdens, and that sensitivity varied among test kits. For all 3 test kits, specificity was 97%. All 3 test kits yielded false-positive and false-negative results for some dogs with low heartworm burdens. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2003;222:1221–1223)