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Keywords:

  • Monoclonal antibodies;
  • immunofluorescence;
  • quality control

Abstract

Flow cytometric immunophenotypic (IPT) evaluation has become an important adjunct to clinical patient management and epidemiological studies. This has precipitated a need for stringent quality assessment (QA) procedures to ascertain data integrity. We evaluated a QA approach to monitor all elements of the immunophenotyping process, inclusive of blood collection and processing procedures as well as of staining reagent and instrument performance. Central to our approach was preparation each day, in parallel with clinical analytes, of lymphocytes from healthy donors, selected from a 15 donor panel. IPT parameters evaluated over a 19 month period included frequencies of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, and CD20+ lymphocytes and the ratio of CD4+ to CD8+ lymphocytes. The sensitivity for analytical error detection was reflected by median coefficients of variation of these parameters within individual panel donors, which were 4.1%, 4.5%, 3.9%, 8.2%, and 10.1%, respectively. IPT parameter values were determined each day for two of the panel donors, then averaged and standardized to obtain a quality or Q variate, which was the basis of QA. Error detection sensitivity decreased 0.6–1.7% and the number of false rejections increased 1.2–3.3% when one panel donor rather than two was used daily for QA. This study also illuminated important aspects of what constitutes the norm for longitudinal IPT parameter variation in healthy individuals including: (1) a generally low degree of temporal parameter variation within individual donors, but (2) significant differences between donors with respect to variance estimates for CD3+ and CD8+ lymphocyte frequencies and CD4+/CD8+ lymphocyte ratios, and (3) an apparent seasonal pattern of variation in CD4+ T-cell frequencies.