To design appropriate antiretroviral therapy regimens and avoid the emergence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 variants with reduced susceptibility to antiretroviral drugs, genotypic drug-resistance testing (HIV genotyping) is strongly recommended. To monitor the quality of HIV genotyping in Japan, we performed an external quality assessment (EQA), named the Japanese external quality assessment program, to standardize HIV genotyping (JEQS). To accurately evaluate the quality of HIV genotyping, we employed as reference material (RM) a well-characterized sample, in vitro transcribed RNA (trRNA) that includes the HIV gag-pol sequence, and created a JEQS2010 panel consisting of three single variant and three mixed trRNA samples. All 11 participating laboratories showed high concordance rates (>96%) for the single variant samples. Eight laboratories also showed good rates of detecting minor variants, but three laboratories failed to detect the variants comprising one-half of the sample. These three laboratories used a common primer that had four internal mismatches to the minor trRNA clone. This program showed the usefulness of trRNA as RM, the high quality of HIV genotyping, and extensive interlaboratory variation in the ability to detect minor variants. These results suggest that improving the quality of HIV genotyping in Japan requires regularly implementing the EQA program and improving the HIV genotyping protocol in each laboratory.
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