Currently dengue viruses (DENV) pose an increasing threat to over 2.5 billion people in over 100 tropical and sub-tropical countries worldwide. International air travel is facilitating rapid global movement of DENV, increasing the risk of severe dengue epidemics by introducing different serotypes. Accurate diagnosis is critical for early initiation of preventive measures. Different reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) methods are available, which should be evaluated and standardized. Epidemiological and laboratory-based surveillance is required to monitor and guide dengue prevention and control programmes, i.e., by mosquito control or possible vaccination (as soon as an effective and safe vaccine becomes available).
The purpose of the external quality assurance (EQA) study described is to assess the efficiency and accuracy of dengue molecular diagnosis methods applied by expert laboratories.
A panel of 12 human plasma samples was distributed and tested for DENV-specific RNA. The panel comprised 9 samples spiked with different DENV serotypes (DENV-1 to DENV-4), including 10-fold dilution series of DENV-1 and DENV-3. Two specificity controls consisted of a sample with a pool of 4 other flaviviruses and a sample with chikungunya virus. A negative control sample was also included.
Thirty-seven laboratories (from Europe, Middle East Asia, Asia, the Americas/Caribbean, and Africa) participated in this EQA study, and reports including 46 sets of results were returned. Performance among laboratories varied according to methodologies used. Only 5 (10.9%) data sets met all criteria with optimal performance, and 4 (8.7%) with acceptable performance, while 37 (80.4%) reported results showed the need for improvement regarding accomplishment of dengue molecular diagnosis. Failures were mainly due to lack of sensitivity and the presence of false positives.
Dengue viruses (DENV) are the most widespread arthropod-borne viruses which have shown an unexpected geographic expansion, as well as an increase in the number and severity of outbreaks in the last decades. In this context, the accurate diagnosis and reliable surveillance of dengue infections are essential. The laboratory diagnosis of dengue relies on the use of several methods detecting markers of DENV infection present in patient serum. Molecular diagnosis methods are usually rapid, sensitive, and simple when correctly standardized. Moreover, PCR-based diagnosis techniques are able to readily detect DENV during the acute phase of the disease and may assume an important role in dengue diagnosis and surveillance. Different reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) methods have been developed and are currently available and should be standardized in each laboratory to maintain high quality performance. In this work an External quality assessment (EQA) activity has been carried out to evaluate the accuracy and quality of laboratory data for the molecular diagnosis and surveillance of dengue, which involved worldwide dengue reference laboratories. In conclusion, RT-PCR techniques for dengue diagnosis applied by the participating laboratories demonstrated the need of further improvement in most laboratories.