Quality Assurance

For biological tests such as NAT, specific problems may arise which may influence both the validation and interpretation of results. The test procedures must be described precisely in the form of standard operating procedures (SOPs). These should cover:

- the mode of sampling (type of container, etc.),

- the preparation of mini-pools (where appropriate),

- the conditions of storage before analysis,

- the exact description of the test conditions, including precautions taken to prevent cross contamination or destruction of the viral RNA, reagents and reference preparations used,

- the exact description of the apparatus used,

- the detailed formulae for calculation of results, including statistical evaluation.

The use of a suitable run control (for example, an appropriate | dilution of hepatitis C virus RNA for NAT testing BRP or plasma spiked with an HCV sample calibrated against the WHO HCV International Standard 96/790) can be considered a satisfactory system suitability check and ensures that the reliability of the analytical procedure is maintained whenever used.

Technical qualification: an appropriate installation and operation qualification programme should be implemented for each critical piece of the equipment used. Confirmation of analytical procedure performance after change of critical equipment (e.g. thermocyclers) should be documented by conducting a parallel test on 8 replicate samples of a plasma pool spiked with HCV RNA to a final concentration of 3 times the previously determined 95 per cent cut-off value. All results should be positive. Operator qualification: an appropriate qualification programme should be implemented for each operator involved in the testing. To confirm successful training each operator should test at least 8 replicate samples of a plasma pool spiked with HCV RNA to a final concentration of 3 times the previously determined 95 per cent cut-off value. This test (8 replicate samples) should be repeated twice on two separate days, i.e. a total of 24 tests performed on three different days. All results should be positive.

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