Mumps is an enveloped single-strand RNA virus of the Rubulavirus genus that causes painful swelling of the salivary glands. It is highly contagious and predominantly affects children.

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Mumps Virus

The mumps virus resides in the mucus of the nose and throat of an infected person and it is mainly spread through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms may not appear for 12-25 days after transmission, however an infected person is contagious from 3 days prior to the onset of symptoms to 9 days after. In general, only supportive care is needed to resolve a mumps infection but occasionally it causes serious complications including meningitis, encephalitis, deafness and orchitis (inflammation of the testicles in males). Before the routine vaccination program was introduced in the United States (in 1967) and other countries, mumps was a common illness in infants, children and young adults. However, due to vaccination the disease is becoming rare.


Standard assays that detect mumps include viral detection methods, RT-PCR and serologic assays in both EIA and IFA formats. Specifically, assays that detect both IgM and IgG antibodies work well for diagnosing mumps infection in immunologically naïve individuals. However, the IgM response and viral shedding that occurs in persons who have been previously vaccinated or naturally infected are moderate in duration and intensity, making detection difficult. Recent research has shown that the enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay could be used as a more reliable diagnostic. This immunoassay method is based on the sandwich ELISA technique and is highly sensitive and enables detection of activated mumps-specific, antibody-secreting B cells in whole blood.

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