Need for an external proficiency testing program for cytokines, chemokines, and plasma markers of immune activation

John L. Fahey, Najib Aziz, John Spritzler, Susan Plaeger, Parunag Nishanian, Janet L. Lathey, Joan Seigel, Alan L. Landay, Rakhi Kilarui, John L. Schmitz, Carmen White, Diane W. Wara, Robert Akridge, Joie Cutili, Steven D. Douglas, James Reuben, William T. Shearer, Mustafa Nokta, Richard Polland, Robert SchooleyDeshratn Asthana, Yaffa Mizrachi, Myron Waxdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An external evaluation program for measuring the performance of laboratories testing for cytokines and immune activation markers in biological fluids was developed. Cytokines, chemokines, soluble cytokine receptors, and other soluble markers of immune activation (CSM) were measured in plasma from a healthy human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-seronegative reference population and from HIV-seropositive individuals as well as in supernatant fluids from in vitro-stimulated human immune cells. The 14 components measured were tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha, gamma interferon, interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, Rantes, MIP-Ia, MIP-Iβ, soluble TNF receptor II, soluble IL-2 receptor alpha, β2-microglobulin, and neopterin. Twelve laboratories associated with the Adult and Pediatric AIDS Clinical Trial Groups participated in the study. The performance features that were evaluated included intralaboratory variability, interlaboratory variability, comparison of reagent sources, and ability to detect CSM in the plasma of normal subjects as well as the changes occurring in disease. The principal findings were as follows: (i) on initial testing, i.e., before participating in the program, laboratories frequently differed markedly in their analytic results; (ii) the quality of testing of a CSM in individual participating laboratories could be assessed; (iii) most commercial kits allowed distinction between normal and abnormal plasma CSM levels and between supernatants of stimulated and unstimulated cells; (iv) different sources of reagents and reference standards frequently provided different absolute values; (v) inexperienced laboratories can benefit from participating in the program; (vi) laboratory performance improved during active participation in the program; and (vii) comparability between analyses conducted at different sites can be ensured by an external proficiency testing program.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)540-548
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Microbiology (medical)


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