Progress in Quantitative Viral Load Testing: Variability and Impact of the WHO Quantitative International Standards
It has been hoped that the recent availability of WHO quantitative standards would improve interlaboratory agreement for viral load testing; however, insufficient data are available to evaluate whether this has been the case. Results from 554 laboratories participating in proficiency testing surveys for quantitative PCR assays of cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), BK virus (BKV), adenovirus (ADV), and human herpesvirus 6 (HHV6) were evaluated to determine overall result variability and then were stratified by assay manufacturer. The impact of calibration to international units/ml (CMV and EBV) on variability was also determined. Viral loads showed a high degree of interlaboratory variability for all tested viruses, with interquartile ranges as high as 1.46 log 10 copies/ml and the overall range for a given sample up to 5.66 log 10 copies/ml. Some improvement in result variability was seen when international units were adopted. This was particularly the case for EBV viral load results. Variability in viral load results remains a challenge across all viruses tested here; introduction of international quantitative standards may help reduce variability and does so more or less markedly for certain viruses.
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