An immunodiagnostic test for the detection of a soluble nonprotein mycobacterial antigen by reverse passive haemagglutination with IgM murine monoclonal antibody was developed. The test was used to analyse the cerebrospinal fluid of 89 patients with tuberculous meningitis (TBM) from India and 127 control subjects from India and the UK. The antigen was demonstrable in 88% of culture-positive and 73% of culture-negative TBM patients. However, it was also detected in 21% of Indian patients with pyogenic meningitis, and in 8% of Indian and 1% of UK control subjects. Antibodies binding to a soluble mycobacterial extract were detected at low titre in 68% of all subjects with TBM and in 37% of Indian cases of pyogenic meningitis. Because patients with TBM had raised levels of the antigen and of antibodies to the antigen, the possible role of immune complexes in the pathogenesis of the disease is briefly discussed.


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