Mumps laboratory findings

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief: Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan, M.B.B.S. [2]; Nate Michalak, B.A.


Laboratory findings for the mumps virus can be useful, and may include virus isolation from swabs of affected salivary ducts, urine, or serum samples. Serologic testing for IgM antibody or detecting a significant rise in IgG antibody confirms a mumps diagnosis. However, there are many important caveats to be aware of when interpreting the results. Antigen detection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is an efficient and rapid method to determine mumps as a diagnosis. It may be necessary to test for antibodies for other infections causing parotitis including: Epstein-Barr Virus, parainfluenza virus, parvovirus B19, adenovirus, and enterovirus.

Laboratory Findings

Initial Lab Tests

Complete blood count with differential:
Serum studies:


  • Significant rise in IgG or IgM antibodies may be helpful to confirm the diagnosis. [2]
  • However, laboratory confirmation of mumps in previously vaccinated or previously infected individuals is challenging, and failure to detect mumps IgM in previously vaccinated persons has been well documented including the cross reactivity of mumps and parainfluenza viruses.[3]
Persons with a history of mumps vaccination may not have detectable mumps IgM antibody regardless of timing of specimen collection.CDC
  • The ability to detect IgM varies by vaccination status and is:
  • highest in unvaccinated persons (80%–100%),[4]
  • intermediate in one-dose vaccine recipients (60%–80%),[5][6]
  • lowest in two-dose vaccine recipients (13%–14%)[7][8]
Adapted from CDC [3]
Mumps Exposure History IgM IgG Comments
Unvaccinated; No history of mumps + + or - IgM may be detected for weeks to months; low levels of IgG may be present at symptom onset[9][4]
1-dose vaccine history + or - Likely + 50% of serum samples collected 1–10 days after symptom onset were IgM positive; 50%–80% of serum samples collected more than 10 days after symptom onset were IgM positive.[6][10][11]
2-dose vaccine history + or - Likely + 13%–15% of serum samples collected 1–3 days after symptom onset were IgM-positive (30%–35% of buccal samples collected 1–3 days after symptom onset were positive by real-time RT-PCR among persons with 2 doses of MMR)[7][8]

Virus Isolation

  • Infected patients remain contagious approximately 6 days before the onset of parotitis until about 9 days after the onset of parotitis, during which time the virus can be isolated. [12]
  • Virus can be isolated in a cell culture inoculated with the virus obtained from swabs of affected salivary ducts, serum or urine.
  • Antigen detection by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is an efficient and rapid method to determine mumps as a diagosis.

Other Laboratory Tests


  1. Skrha J, Stĕpán J, Sixtová E (1979). "Amylase isoenzymes in mumps". European Journal of Pediatrics. 132 (2): 99–105. PMID 499265. 
  2. "Mumps: Lab Testing for Mumps Infection". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  3. "Mumps: Lab Testing for Mumps Infection". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sakata H, Tsurudome M, Hishiyama M, Ito Y, Sugiura A (1985). "Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for mumps IgM antibody: comparison of IgM capture and indirect IgM assay". Journal of Virological Methods. 12 (3-4): 303–11. PMID 3833873. 
  5. Briss PA, Fehrs LJ, Parker RA, Wright PF, Sannella EC, Hutcheson RH, Schaffner W (1994). "Sustained transmission of mumps in a highly vaccinated population: assessment of primary vaccine failure and waning vaccine-induced immunity". The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 169 (1): 77–82. PMID 8277201. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Narita M, Matsuzono Y, Takekoshi Y, Yamada S, Itakura O, Kubota M, Kikuta H, Togashi T (1998). "Analysis of mumps vaccine failure by means of avidity testing for mumps virus-specific immunoglobulin G". Clinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology. 5 (6): 799–803. PMC 96204Freely accessible. PMID 9801337. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bitsko RH, Cortese MM, Dayan GH, Rota PA, Lowe L, Iversen SC, Bellini WJ (2008). "Detection of RNA of mumps virus during an outbreak in a population with a high level of measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine coverage". Journal of Clinical Microbiology. 46 (3): 1101–3. PMC 2268349Freely accessible. PMID 18184850. doi:10.1128/JCM.01803-07. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Rota JS, Hickman CJ, Sowers SB, Rota PA, Mercader S, Bellini WJ (2011). "Two case studies of modified measles in vaccinated physicians exposed to primary measles cases: high risk of infection but low risk of transmission". The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 204 Suppl 1: S559–63. PMID 21666213. doi:10.1093/infdis/jir098. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  9. Meurman O, Hänninen P, Krishna RV, Ziegler T (1982). "Determination of IgG- and IgM-class antibodies to mumps virus by solid-phase enzyme immunoassay". Journal of Virological Methods. 4 (4-5): 249–56. PMID 6286705. 
  10. Samuel D, Sasnauskas K, Jin L, Beard S, Zvirbliene A, Gedvilaite A, Cohen B (2002). "High level expression of recombinant mumps nucleoprotein in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and its evaluation in mumps IgM serology". Journal of Medical Virology. 66 (1): 123–30. PMID 11748668. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  11. Krause CH, Molyneaux PJ, Ho-Yen DO, McIntyre P, Carman WF, Templeton KE (2007). "Comparison of mumps-IgM ELISAs in acute infection". Journal of Clinical Virology : the Official Publication of the Pan American Society for Clinical Virology. 38 (2): 153–6. PMID 17142100. doi:10.1016/j.jcv.2006.10.010. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 
  12. UTZ JP, HOUK VN, ALLING DW (1964). "CLINICAL AND LABORATORY STUDIES OF MUMPS". The New England Journal of Medicine. 270: 1283–6. PMID 14133666. doi:10.1056/NEJM196406112702404. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  13. Davidkin, Irja; Jokinen, Sari; Paananen, Anja; Leinikki, Pauli; Peltola, Heikki (2005). "Etiology of Mumps‐Like Illnesses in Children and Adolescents Vaccinated for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella". The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 191 (5): 719–723. ISSN 0022-1899. doi:10.1086/427338.