Leishmaniasis Direct Agglutination Test: Using Pictorials as Training Materials to Reduce Inter-Reader Variability and Improve Accuracy

Adams, Emily R.; Jacquet, Diane; Schoone, Gerard; Gidwani, Kamlesh; Boelaert, Marleen; Cunningham, Jane
December 2012
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases;Dec2012, Vol. 6 Issue 12, p1
Academic Journal
Background: The Direct Agglutination Test (DAT) has a high diagnostic accuracy and remains, in some geographical areas, part of the diagnostic algorithm for Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL). However, subjective interpretation of results introduces potential for inter-reader variation. We report an assessment of inter-laboratory agreement and propose a pictorial-based approach to standardize reading of the DAT. Methodology: In preparation for a comparative evaluation of immunochromatographic diagnostics for VL, a proficiency panel of 15 well-characterized sera, DAT-antigen from a single batch and common protocol was sent to nine laboratories in Latin-America, East-Africa and Asia. Agreement (i.e., equal titre or within 1 titer) with the reading by the reference laboratory was computed. Due to significant inter-laboratory disagreement on-site refresher training was provided to all technicians performing DAT. Photos of training plates were made, and end-titres agreed upon by experienced users of DAT within the Visceral-Leishmaniasis Laboratory-Network (VL-LN). Results: Pre-training, concordance in DAT results with reference laboratories was only 50%, although agreement on negative sera was high (94%). After refresher training concordance increased to 84%; agreement on negative controls increased to 98%. Variance in readings significantly decreased after training from 3.3 titres to an average of 1.0 titre (two-sample Wilcoxon rank-sum (Mann-Whitney) test (z = −3,624 and p = 0.0003)). Conclusion: The most probable explanation for disagreement was subjective endpoint reading. Using pictorials as training materials may be a useful tool to reduce disparity in results and promote more standardized reading of DAT, without compromising diagnostic sensitivity.


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