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Malar J. 2011 May 9;10:115. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-115.

Comparison of commercial kits to measure cytokine responses to Plasmodium falciparum by multiplex microsphere suspension array technology.

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Barcelona Centre for International Health Research, Hospital Clínic, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.



Multiplex cytokine profiling systems are useful tools for investigating correlates of protective immunity. Several Luminex and flow cytometry methods are commercially available but there is limited information on the relative performance of different kits. A series of comparison experiments were carried out to determine the most appropriate method for our subsequent studies.


Two Luminex methods were compared, the Bio-Rad human 17-plex panel and the Invitrogen (formerly BioSource) human cytokine 10-plex kit, and two flow cytometry methods, the Becton Dickinson Human Th1/Th2 Cytokine Kit (CBA) and the Bender MedSystems Human Th1/Th2 11plex FlowCytomix Multiplex Kit. All kits were tested for the measurement of cytokines in supernatants collected from human leukocytes stimulated with viable Plasmodium falciparum infected red blood cells (iRBC) or P. falciparum schizont lysates.


Data indicated that the kits differed in sensitivity and reproducibility depending on the cytokine, and detected different quantities of some cytokines. The Bio-Rad 17-plex kit was able to detect more positive responses than the Invitrogen 10-plex kit. However, only when detecting IL-1, IL-6 or TNF did the two Luminex based methods correlate with one another. In this study, the flow cytometry based techniques were less variable and correlated better with one another. The two flow cytometry based kits showed significant correlation when detecting IFN-γ, IL-2, TNF, IL-10 and IL-6, but overall the BD kit detected more positive responses than the Bender MedSystems kit.


The microsphere suspension array technologies tested differed in reproducibility and the absolute quantity of cytokine detected. Sample volume, the number of cytokines measured, and the time and cost of the assays also differed. These data provide an accurate assessment of the four techniques, which will allow individual researchers to select the tool most suited for their study population.

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