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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2010 Aug;17(8):1282-90. doi: 10.1128/CVI.00096-10. Epub 2010 Jul 7.

External quality assessment for the determination of diphtheria antitoxin in human serum.

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Istituto Superiore di Sanità, CRIVIB, viale Regina Elena 299, Rome, Italy.


Accurate determination of diphtheria toxin antibodies is of value in determining the rates of immunity within broad populations or the immune status of individuals who may be at risk of infection, by assessing responses to vaccination and immunization schedule efficacy. Here we report the results of an external quality assessment (EQA) study for diphtheria serology, performed within the dedicated surveillance network DIPNET. Twelve national laboratories from 11 European countries participated by testing a standard panel of 150 sera using their current routine method: Vero cell neutralization test (NT), double-antigen enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA; DAE), dual double-antigen time-resolved fluorescence immunoassay (dDA-DELFIA), passive hemagglutination assay (PHA), toxin binding inhibition assay (ToBI), and in-house or commercial ELISAs. The objective of the study was not to identify the best assay, as the advantages and drawbacks of methods used were known, but to verify if laboratories using their routine method would have categorized (as negative, equivocal, or positive) a serum sample in the same way. The performance of each laboratory was determined by comparing its results on a quantitative and qualitative basis to NT results from a single reference laboratory, as this test is considered the in vitro "gold standard." The performance of laboratories using NT was generally very good, while the laboratories' performance using other in vitro methods was variable. Laboratories using ELISA and PHA performed less well than those using DAE, dDA-DELFIA, or ToBI. EQA is important for both laboratories that use in vitro nonstandardized methods and those that use commercial ELISA kits.

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