Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Association between secretor status and respiratory viral illness.

British Medical Journal 1991; 303 doi: (Published 05 October 1991) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1991;303:815
  1. M W Raza,
  2. C C Blackwell,
  3. P Molyneaux,
  4. V S James,
  5. M M Ogilvie,
  6. J M Inglis,
  7. D M Weir
  1. Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Edinburgh Medical School.


    OBJECTIVE--To determine whether non-secretion of blood group antigens is associated with respiratory virus diseases. DESIGN--Study of secretor status in patients with respiratory virus diseases determined by an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) developed to identify Lewis (Le) blood group antigen phenotypes (Le(a) non-secretor; Le(b) secretor). SUBJECTS--Patients aged 1 month to 90 years in hospital with respiratory virus diseases (584 nasal specimens). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Criteria for validation of ELISA (congruence between results on ELISA testing of 1155 saliva samples from a previous study and previously established results on haemagglutination inhibition (HAI) testing, proportions of Le(a), Le(b), and Le- phenotypes in 872 samples of nasal washings from a previous study compared with the normal population). Secretor status of patients determined by ELISA and viruses isolated. RESULTS--Agreement between HAI and ELISA for 1155 saliva samples was 97%. Lewis antigens were detected by ELISA in 854 (97.9%) of nasal washings (Le(a) 233 (26.7%), Le(b) 621 (71.2%), and Le- 18 (2.1%)) in proportions predicted for a northern European population. Secretors were significantly overrepresented among patients from whom influenza viruses A and B (55/64, 86%; p less than 0.025), rhinoviruses (63/72, 88%; p less than 0.01), respiratory syncytial virus (97/109, 89%; p less than 0.0005), and echoviruses (44/44, p less than 0.0005) had been isolated compared with the distribution of secretors in the local population. CONCLUSION--Secretion of blood group antigens is associated with respiratory virus diseases.