Use of the Normalized Absorbance Ratio as an Internal Standardization Approach To Minimize Measurement Error in Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays for Diagnosis of Human Papillomavirus Infection
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The serological detection of antibodies against human papillomavirus (HPV) antigens is a useful tool to determine exposure to genital HPV infection and in predicting the risk of infection persistence and associated lesions. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) are commonly used for seroepidemiological studies of HPV infection but are not standardized. Intra-and interassay performance variation is difficult to control, especially in cohort studies that require the testing of specimens over extended periods. We propose the use of normalized absorbance ratios (NARs) as a standardization procedure to control for such variations and minimize measurement error. We compared NAR and ELISA optical density (OD) values for the strength of the correlation between serological results for paired visits 4 months apart and HPV-16 DNA positivity in cervical specimens from a cohort investigation of 2,048 women tested with an ELISA using HPV-16 virus-like particles. NARs were calculated by dividing the mean blank-subtracted (net) ODs by the equivalent values of a control serum pool included in the same plate in triplicate, using different dilutions. Stronger correlations were observed with NAR values than with net ODs at every dilution, with an overall reduction in nonexplained regression variability of 39%. Using logistic regression, the ranges of odds ratios of HPV-16 DNA positivity contrasting upper and lower quintiles at different dilutions and their averages were 4.73 to 5.47 for NARs and 2.78 to 3.28 for net ODs, with corresponding significant improvements in seroreactivity-risk trends across quintiles when NARs were used. The NAR standardization is a simple procedure to reduce measurement error in seroepidemiological studies of HPV infection.