In September 2009, a mumps outbreak originated in New York and spread to Northeastern USA and Canada. This study compares the performance of different diagnostic testing methods used in Ontario and describes molecular characteristics of the outbreak strain.
Between September 2009 and February 2010, specimens from suspect cases were submitted to Public Health Ontario Laboratory for mumps serology, culture and/or real-time reverse-transcriptase PCR (rRT-PCR) testing. rRT-PCR-positive specimens underwent genotyping at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory. Whole genome sequencing was performed on four outbreak and three sporadic viral culture isolates.
Six hundred ninety-eight patients had IgM serology testing, of which 255 (37%) had culture and rRT-PCR. Among those, 35/698 (5%) were IgM positive, 39/255 (15%) culture positive and 47/255 (18%) rRT-PCR-positive. Buccal swabs had the highest rRT-PCR positivity (21%). The outbreak isolates were identical to that in the New York outbreak occurring at the same time. Nucleotide and amino acid identity with the Jeryl Lynn vaccine strain ranged from 85.0-94.5% and 82.4-99.4%, depending on the gene and coding sequences. Homology of the HN protein, the main immunogenic mumps virus protein, was found to be 94.5 and 95.3%, when compared to Jeryl Lynn vaccine major and minor components, respectively.
Despite higher sensitivity than serology, rRT-PCR testing is underutilized. Further work is needed to better understand the suboptimal match of the HN gene between the outbreak strain and the Jeryl Lynn vaccine strain.