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BACKGROUND: Antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) are associated with several inflammatory rheumatic diseases. The aim of the present work was to evaluate enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) and compare them with classic immunofluorescent analysis (IFA) for the detection of ANA. METHODS: Seven enzyme immunoassays were used in this study. All assays were applied as described by the manufacturers. Three populations were included in the study: (a) a population of patients with well-established autoimmune inflammatory disease (n = 102); (b) a population in which a rheumatic disease was diagnosed up to 5 years after an IFA was performed (n = 164); and (c) a population of consecutive outpatients suspected to have a rheumatic disease (n = 101). The current clinical diagnoses of the patients served as the standard against which performance of the assays was evaluated. RESULTS: In patients with well-established rheumatic disorders, the newly developed EIA in which HEp-2 extracts were included had sensitivities and specificities comparable to or in some instances better than the IFA. The assays without HEp-2 extracts included had significantly lower sensitivities and specificities. In the outpatient population, up to 51% of patients had positive ANA tests that did not correspond to classic ANA-associated disease. However, in the assays in which the HEp-2 extracts were not included, the false-positive rate was <10%. The false-negative rate judged against IFA differed from assay to assay and disease to disease and was mostly <10%. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, the sensitivities of EIAs and IFA were largely comparable. However, EIAs without HEp-2 extracts included had a low sensitivity but a high specificity, particularly in nonselected populations. The choice of test is highly dependent on the clinical setting in which the ANA test is to be used and on laboratory policy.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Chem

Publication Date





2141 - 2147


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Antibodies, Antinuclear, Autoimmune Diseases, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Humans, Immunoassay, Male, Middle Aged, Rheumatic Diseases