Dengue viruses comprise 4 serotypes. Infection with one dengue serotype elicits lifelong homotypic immunity, but only short-lived immunity for heterotypic serotypes . Dengue neutralizing antibody has been believed to represent protection against dengue, and the PRNT test has been widely used to measure this neutralizing antibody. Numerous vaccine immunogenicity assessment laboratories consider a seropositive threshold to be 10  and since four of the subjects in this report had PRNT50 titers of 10–13, we arbitrarily divided the subjects into 3 groups, i.e. titer <20, 20–90, and >90. We found that 17 (54.8%) and 9 (29.0%) of 31 subjects had pre-existing PRNT50 titers >20 and >90, respectively, to the subsequent infecting dengue serotype. These data provide partial insight into the correlation between PRNT50 titer and disease protection. This is very important, because PRNT titer is considered an important marker of protection in the development of dengue vaccines. These data are perhaps the most relevant available data, as more valid data on the correlation between pre-existing PRNT50 titer and disease protection in humans requires human challenge with dengue virus, which may not be possible due to ethical issues. This report raises some inconsistencies with our previous understandings. First, the finding in 2 subjects (subjects 01–286 and 05–021 [Table 2]) suggests that previous D1 infection may not induce protection to subsequent symptomatic homotypic dengue infection. Second, a quite high pre-existing PRNT50 titer (>90) may not be able to protect against subsequent symptomatic infection from the respective dengue serotype.
In a cohort study in Thailand, Endy et al.  also found that pre-existing neutralizing antibody directed against infecting dengue serotype (titer >10) was detected in 36%, 67%, and 46% of D3, D2, and D1 infections, respectively. Moreover, only a pre-existing PRNT50 > 100 against the reference D3 strain was associated with milder severity of disease, but not in D2 and D1. This is further confirmed by the finding in a phase-2b dengue-vaccine trial among Thai children that the tetravalent live-attenuated dengue vaccine had a low level of efficacy against D2, despite its high immunogenicity .
There are some possible explanations for the lack of a definite correlation between PRNT50 titer and protection from subsequent dengue infection. One possible explanation is that in our PRNT, we used LLC-MK2 cells, which are not FcγR-expressing cells. In the absence of FcγR, dengue virus-antibody complexes are not able to infect the cells, while these complexes are taken up more efficiently by FcγR-expressing cells, and are still infectious . This is supported by the study of Moi et al., who found that 11 of 18 serum samples from patients with acute secondary dengue infection demonstrated neutralizing activity to the infecting serotype, determined using FcγR-negative BHK cells, but not when determined using FcγR-expressing cells. Another explanation is that the protective PRNT50 titer for dengue may be much higher than the titer of 10, defined for Japanese encephalitis virus, and the protective level of dengue neutralizing antibody should be more accurately defined. This study revealed that subjects with pre-existing PRNT50 titer of up to 1848 against D1, and 261 against D4, still had symptomatic infections due to the respective serotypes, suggesting the protective level should be higher and may differ for different serotypes. Nevertheless, defining the protective-level cut-off point is difficult and challenging. A very large cohort study and long-term follow-up are needed, unless a challenge test in subjects with pre-defined PRNT levels could be conducted. Moreover, as PRNT titers vary significantly depending on testing conditions, such as virus strains, virus passage and cell type [19, 20], optimal testing conditions should be defined.
Finally, the pre-infection PRNT50 titers are against reference dengue-virus strains. As molecular evolution among dengue viruses has been continuous , it may cause antigenic mismatches between the reference dengue virus strains used in the PRNT and infecting viruses, and therefore, mismatch between the pre-existing antibody and the antigen of the infecting homologous serotype. Further studies are needed to clarify these possibilities.
It is also noted that dengue-naïve but Japanese encephalitis (JE)-immuned subjects shown by PRNT (e.g. subjects 01–384, 04–325, 07–479) showed secondary antibody response to subsequent dengue infection. One subject (subject 04–325) had DHF grade2. These pieces of evidence suggest cross-reactive antibody responses between dengue and JE.