Improved Standardization of Flow Cytometry Diagnostic Screening of Primary Immunodeficiency by Software-Based Automated Gating

Front Immunol. 2020 Nov 2;11:584646. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.584646. eCollection 2020.


Background: Multiparameter flow cytometry (FC) is essential in the diagnostic work-up and classification of primary immunodeficiency (PIDs). The EuroFlow PID Orientation tube (PIDOT) allows identification of all main lymphocyte subpopulations in blood. To standardize data analysis, tools for Automated Gating and Identification (AG&I) of the informative cell populations, were developed by EuroFlow. Here, we evaluated the contribution of these innovative AG&I tools to the standardization of FC in the diagnostic work-up of PID, by comparing AG&I against expert-based (EuroFlow-standardized) Manual Gating (MG) strategy, and its impact on the reproducibility and clinical interpretation of results.

Methods: FC data files from 44 patients (13 CVID, 12 PID, 19 non-PID) and 26 healthy donor (HD) blood samples stained with PIDOT were analyzed in parallel by MG and AG&I, using Infinicyt™ software (Cytognos). For comparison, percentage differences in absolute cell counts/µL were calculated for each lymphocyte subpopulation. Data files showing differences >20% were checked for their potential clinical relevance, based on age-matched percentile (p5-p95) reference ranges. In parallel, intra- and inter-observer reproducibility of MG vs AG&I were evaluated in a subset of 12 samples.

Results: The AG&I approach was able to identify the vast majority of lymphoid events (>99%), associated with a significantly higher intra- and inter-observer reproducibility compared to MG. For most HD (83%) and patient (68%) samples, a high degree of agreement (<20% numerical differences in absolute cell counts/µL) was obtained between MG and the AG&I module. This translated into a minimal impact (<5% of observations) on the final clinical interpretation. In all except three samples, extended expert revision of the AG&I approach revealed no error. In the three remaining samples aberrant maturation and/or abnormal marker expression profiles were seen leading in all three cases to numerical alarms by AG&I.

Conclusion: Altogether, our results indicate that replacement of MG by the AG&I module would be associated with a greater reproducibility and robustness of results in the diagnostic work-up of patients suspected of PID. However, expert revision of the results of AG&I of PIDOT data still remains necessary in samples with numerical alterations and aberrant B- and T-cell maturation and/or marker expression profiles.

Keywords: EuroFlow; automated gating; flow cytometry; immunophenotyping; primary immunodeficiencies; standardization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping / methods
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases / pathology
  • Reference Standards
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software
  • Young Adult