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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology
Volume 20 (2009), Issue 3, Pages 73-77
Original Article

Rubella Immunity among Pregnant Women in a Canadian Provincial Screening Program

Mark J Kearns,1 Sabrina S Plitt,2 Bonita E Lee,3 and Joan L Robinson3

1Faculty of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2Centre for Communicable Disease and Infection Control, Public Health Agency of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
3Provincial Public Health Laboratory, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Received 23 July 2008; Accepted 20 December 2008

Copyright © 2009 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: There are limited recent data on rubella immunity in women of childbearing age in Canada. In the present paper, the proportion of rubella seroreactivity and redundant testing (testing of women previously seropositive when tested by the same physician) in the Alberta prenatal rubella screening program were studied.

METHODS: In the present retrospective observational study, data on all specimens submitted for prenatal screening in Alberta between August 2002 and December 2005 were extracted from the Provincial Laboratory for Public Health database. The proportion of rubella screening and immunoglobulin G (IgG) seroreactivity were determined. Demographic variables were compared between rubella seroreactors and nonseroreactors. The proportion of redundant testing was determined.

RESULTS: Of 159,046 prenatal specimens, 88.3% (n=140,473) were screened for rubella immunity. In total, 8.8% of specimens tested negative for rubella IgG. Younger women (23.2% of women younger than 20 years of age versus 4.7% of women between 35 and 39 years of age; P<0.001) and women from northern Alberta (11.9% versus 8.1% [overall]; P<0.001) were significantly more likely to have seronegative specimens. Of the 20,044 women who had multiple rubella immunity screenings, 88.1% (n=17,651) had multiple positive test results. In total, 20.7% of the 42,274 specimens submitted from women with multiple screenings were deemed redundant.

DISCUSSION: Younger women were most likely to be seronegative for rubella. The public health significance of women entering their childbearing years with low or undetectable rubella IgG levels remains to be determined. A large number of women with documented rubella immunity were unnecessarily retested.