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A ring trial to harmonize Toxoplasma gondii microsatellite typing: comparative analysis of results and recommendations for optimization

A ring trial among five European laboratories was organized to reach consistency in microsatellite (MS) typing of the zoonotic parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Three sample sets were circulated and analyzed by each laboratory following a previously published method that is based on fragment length polymorphism of 15 MS markers. The first sample set compared typing results in general and focused on effects of DNA concentration; the second sample set focused on the polymorphic fingerprinting markers that can differentiate T. gondii strains within the same archetypal lineage; and the third set focused on non-archetypal genotypes. Methodological variations between laboratories, including the software programs used to determine MS fragment length, were collated using a questionnaire. Overall, lineage-level typing results reached a high level of agreement, especially in samples with the highest DNA concentrations. However, laboratory-specific differences were observed for particular markers. Major median differences in fragment length, of up to 6 base pairs, were related to the fluorophore used to label fragment-specific primers. In addition, primer pairs with identical sequences obtained from different suppliers resulted in fragments of differing length. Furthermore, differences in the way the sequencing profiles were assessed and interpreted may have led to deviating results in fragment length determination. Harmonization of MS typing, for example, by using the same fluorophores or by numerical adjustments applied to the fragment-lengths determined, could improve the uniformity of the results across laboratories. This is the first interlaboratory comparison, providing guidelines (added as a supplement) for the optimization of this technique.



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