Anti-ganglioside antibodies are frequently sought in the sera of patients with autoimmune peripheral neuropathy, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) as the principal method for antibody detection. Wide variations in assay performance between laboratories have been reported. In this study, we established a standardized ELISA method between laboratories within the European Inflammatory Neuropathy Cause and Treatment (INCAT) group and determined the inter-laboratory variance in assay performance using both the standardized INCAT method and in-house local methods. As expected, the inter-laboratory variances were greater using local methods than using the standardized method, producing titre estimates which could be 24.8 or 7.6 times larger or smaller, respectively, than the true means for these laboratories. Using the standardized method, the within laboratory measurement error accounted for 41% of the inter-laboratory variation, providing a theoretical upper limit to which technical improvements within laboratories could reduce inter-laboratory variation. These data describe the intrinsic weaknesses within the widely used ganglioside antibody ELISA methods and reinforce the importance of inter-laboratory cooperation within this area. Standardized serological reagents used in this study are available from INCAT members.
Copyright 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins