What is the role of shell vial assay in the workup of cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection?

Updated: Jul 07, 2021
  • Author: Ricardo Cedeno-Mendoza, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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The shell vial assay is performed by adding the clinical specimen to a vial that contains a permissive cell line for CMV. The shell vials are centrifuged at a low speed and placed in an incubator. After 24 and 48 hours, the tissue culture medium is removed and the cells are stained using a fluorescein-labeled anti-CMV antibody. The cells are read using a fluorescent microscope. Alternatively, the cells are stained with an antibody against CMV, followed by a fluorescein-labeled anti–immune globulin.

This test has been found to be as sensitive as traditional tissue culture.

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