The US National institutes of Health-Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance is a research consortium that funds numerous labs worldwide to conduct influenza A surveillance in diverse animal species. There is no harmonization of testing procedures among these labs; therefore an external quality assurance (EQA) program was implemented to evaluate testing accuracy among labs in the program in 2012. Accurate detection of novel influenza A variants is crucial because of the broad host range and potentially high virulence of the virus in diverse species. Two molecular detection sample sets and 2 serology sample sets (one with avian origin isolates, and one with mammalian origin isolates each) were made available at approximately six month intervals. Participating labs tested the material in accordance with their own protocols. During a five year period a total of 41 labs from 23 countries ordered a total of 132 avian molecular, 121 mammalian molecular and 90 serology sample sets. Testing was completed by 111 individuals. Detection of type A influenza by RT-PCR was reliable with a pass rate (80% or greater agreement with expected results) of 86.6% for avian and 86.2% for mammalian origin isolates. However, identification of subtype by RT-PCR was relatively poor with 54.1% and 75.9% accuracy for avian and mammalian influenza isolates respectively. Serological testing had an overall pass rate of 86.9% and 22/23 labs used commercial ELISA kits. Based on the results of this EQA program six labs modified their procedures to improve accuracy and one lab identified an unknown equipment problem. These data represent the successful implementation of an international EQA program for an infectious disease; insights into the logistics and test design are also discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Support was provided by US Department of Agriculture, ARS CRIS Project 6040-32000-063-00D and by federal funds from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, under IAA No. AAI12004-001-00001 and the Minnesota Center for Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance HHSN266200700007. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.