Cross-laboratory evaluation of multiplex bead assays including independent common reference standards for immunological monitoring of observational and interventional human studies.
van Meijgaarden KE., Khatri B., Smith SG., Drittij AMFH., de Paus RA., Goeman JJ., Ho MM., Dockrell HM., McShane H., Joosten SA., Ottenhoff THM.
BACKGROUND: Multiplex assays are increasingly applied to analyze multicomponent signatures of human immune responses, including the dynamics of cytokine and chemokine production, in observational as well as interventional studies following treatment or vaccination. However, relatively limited information is available on the performance of the different available multiplex kits, and comparative evaluations addressing this important issue are lacking. STUDY DESIGN: To fill this knowledge gap we performed a technical comparison of multiplex bead assays from 4 manufacturers, each represented by 3 different lots, and with the assays performed by 3 different laboratories. To cross compare kits directly, spiked samples, biological samples and a newly made reference standard were included in all assays. Analyses were performed on 324 standard curves to allow for evaluation of the quality of the standard curves and the subsequent interpretation of biological specimens. RESULTS: Manufacturer was the factor which contributed most to the observed variation whereas variation in lots, laboratory or type of detection reagent contributed minimally. Inclusion of a common reference standard allowed us to overcome observed differences in cytokine and chemokine levels between manufacturers. CONCLUSIONS: We strongly recommend using multiplex assays from the same manufacturer within a single study and across studies that are likely to compare results in a quantitative manner. Incorporation of common reference standards, and application of the same analysis method in assays can overcome many analytical biases and thus could bridge comparison of independent immune profiling (e.g. vaccine immunogenicity) studies. With these recommendations taken into account, the multiplex bead assays performed as described here are useful tools in capturing complex human immune-signatures in observational and interventional studies.