Serological assays for measuring antibodies to human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16) virus-like particles (VLPs) have become important epidemiologic tools in recent years. However, the interlaboratory replicability of these assays has not been assessed. In this investigation, three laboratories tested a panel of specimens obtained from two different groups: 265 subjects in a vulvar cancer case-control study and 107 healthy volunteer blood donors. Each laboratory used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), but no attempt was made to standardize assay procedures among the three laboratories. The data showed good day-to-day intralaboratory replicability in laboratory 1 (correlation coefficient, ≤0.88) and good intra-assay variability in laboratory 3 (correlation coefficient, ≤0.93). Interlaboratory correlations, likewise, ranged between 0.61 and 0.80 in both case-control study subjects and healthy blood donors, indicating that ELISA optical density (OD) values between laboratories were linearly related regardless of the population. Kappa coefficients (κ), based on each laboratory's categorical interpretation of its results (as positive or negative), showed good agreement (κ, >0.6) in case-control study subjects and moderate agreement (κ, ≤0.4) in blood donors, a population that had few strongly positive sera. When OD values near seropositive cutoffs were treated as indeterminates, there was little discordance between laboratories in either population. The data suggest that each laboratory measured the same humoral immune response and that their HPV-16 VLP ELISAs performed similarly (Pearson correlations). Interlaboratory differences, however, probably due to reagents and procedures, were considerably greater than intralaboratory day- to-day variability. Interlaboratory agreement in determining seropositivity (κ) could be improved by sharing positive and negative serum controls and by treating marginal results as indeterminate. As part of continuing cooperation to improve interlaboratory agreement, we are preparing bulk serum control specimens to be shared and made available to interested researchers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)