Impact of unified procedures as implemented in the Canadian Quality Assurance Program for T lymphocyte subset enumeration
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The objective of the Canadian Quality Assurance Program (CQAP) is to provide the most reproducible and accurate T-cell subset enumeration for individuals living with HIV who are enrolled in the Canadian Clinical Trial Network for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Therapies (abbreviated as CTN). The Canadian National Laboratory for Analytical Cytology, within the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, is part of the Health Protection Branch of Health Canada. For the past eight years, the Laboratory for Analytical Cytology has been responsible for delivering a bilingual quality assurance program for CD4 T-cell enumeration. This federal program, which integrates biotechnology transfer with quality assessment, was achieved through the organization of workshops focused on technology transfer and essential skill-building techniques. Two training sessions were conducted for the CTN flow cytometer operators. The first introduced the concept of window of analysis, to demonstrate the practical benefits of unified quantitative fluorescent measurement. As a follow-up to the first workshop, participants performed a series of quantitative assays that monitored the expression of CD69, an early activation marker. This quantitative fluorescence protocol was performed with acceptable inter-laboratory variation using modified commercial kits. The second workshop focused on a absolute count method based on a single platform. Four preserved whole-blood preparations were tested with this approach. The combined effort reduced inter-laboratory variation. The direct impact was monitored as related to the frequency of participation. Over the years, the standard deviation of average accumulated variation decreased dramatically with increased frequency of participation, from 10% to <4%.
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