Impact of the international program for quality assessment and standardization for immunological measures relevant to HIV/AIDS: QASI



Measurements of CD4 T-cell levels are essential for the assessment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease course, clinical staging, epidemiological studies, and decisions regarding prophylactic therapies against opportunistic infection. Until now, only in the industrialized countries was T-cell subset monitoring considered a practical option to assess disease progression. The Quality Assessment and Standardization for Immunological Measures Relevant to HIV/AIDS (QASI) program was established in 1997 to meet performance assessment for immunophenotyping laboratories in countries where such service is not available. The QASI program is provided at no cost to any laboratory in a resource-poor setting that wishes to participate. This report describes the beneficial impact of participation in the QASI program. Carefully selected commercial stabilized whole blood preparations were sent regularly to participating laboratories. Participants reported the T-cell subset values they obtained by flow cytometry. Once the aggregate mean values for the T-cell subsets were established for the shipment, a comprehensive and confidential report was sent to each laboratory. The results from five consecutive shipments were analyzed. The coefficient of variation decreased from 7.2% to 4.7% and from 14.2% to 8.8% for percent and absolute CD4 T-cell counts, respectively. With the implementation of the QASI program using commercial stabilized whole blood specimens, it is possible to reduce interlaboratory error. This study illustrates that a quality assessment program can improve the overall performance of laboratories. Reducing interlaboratory variation can enhance significantly the effectiveness of multicenter HIV vaccine or drug trial evaluation. Cytometry (Clin. Cytometry) 50:111–116, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.