Results of an ELISPOT proficiency panel conducted in 11 laboratories participating in international human immunodeficiency virus type 1 vaccine trials.
We used an external quality assurance (EQA) panel to assess laboratory competency and comparability when performing ELISPOT assays in support of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) vaccine trials. Cell recovery, viability, and frequency of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma)-secreting cells after antigen stimulation were obtained from 11 laboratories on a coded panel of 11 peripheral blood mononuclear cell samples. The median recovery and viability before plating for all samples were 35% and 86%, respectively, with notable interlaboratory and intrasample variability. Empirical as well as statistical analysis methods were used to define positive ELISPOT responses. Remarkable concordance between laboratories was obtained in defining a qualitative assessment of responder/nonresponder status to antigens, but the frequency of responding cells varied among the laboratories. This study highlights the need for better standardization of protocols and reagents to obtain reliable and reproducible data that may support immunogenicity studies, vaccine regulatory submissions, and licensure.