Background and Objectives In this EQA study a novel approach was used to assess the performance of blood centres and blood product manufacturers in detecting the possible contamination of plasma with HCV, HIV and HBV by NAT.
Materials and Methods A panel of 12 samples, three negative and three positive for each virus, was distributed to the EQA participants. The positive samples were prepared, using the respective WHO standards, in order to obtain a viral concentration of about three times the 95% DL of the methods most commonly used by laboratories involved in blood screening by NAT. Participants were requested to test each sample of the panel on different days, possibly by different operators using their routine NAT assay.
Results Overall, the participants’ performance was satisfactory. In particular, 49 of the 59 participants (83%) were able to correctly identify all samples. Regarding the remaining 10 laboratories, in three cases a deviation from the laboratory's procedure that could be attributed to an operator's mistake was observed, in two cases a possible cross-contamination occurred while in the remaining five cases the failure to detect the positive samples couldn't be ascribed to any relevant deviation in the laboratory's procedure.
Conclusions The novel design of this EQA study allowed participants to verify their day by day activity as the study was carried out in the context of their routine testing. Under these conditions, it was demonstrated that, despite the high level of automation reached by NAT assays, human errors can still occur.