A European multi-centre External Quality Assessment (EQA) study on phenotypic and genotypic methods used for Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) drug resistance testing

Baharak Afshar, David F. Bibby*, Renata Piorkowska, Natasha Ohemeng-Kumi, Robert Snoeck, Graciela Andrei, Sarah Gillemot, Florence Morfin, Emilie Frobert, Sonia Burrel, David Boutolleau, Brendan Crowley, Jean Mbisa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) drug resistance is a significant public health concern among immunocompromised individuals. Phenotypic assays are considered the gold standard method for detecting HSV drug resistance. However, plaque reduction assays (PRAs) are technically demanding, often with long turnaround times of up to four weeks. In contrast, genotypic tests can be performed within a few days. Objectives The development and coordination of the first European External Quality Assessment (EQA) study to evaluate phenotypic and genotypic methods used for HSV drug resistance testing in specialised reference laboratories. Study design Four HSV-1 or HSV-2 strains with different antiviral susceptibility profiles were isolated from clinical samples. Isolates were quantified by qPCR, and aliquoted in culture medium. One isolate was distributed at two dilutions to help assess assay sensitivity. The panel was distributed to five European centres with a six-week deadline for the return of phenotypic and genotypic results, together with clinical reports. Results Four out of five participating labs returned results by the deadline. Limited results were later available from the fifth lab. Phenotypic and genotypic data were largely, but not completely, concordant. An unusual resistance profile shown by one of the samples was explained by the detection of a mixed virus population after extensive further investigation by one of the centres. Conclusions Discordant clinical outputs reflecting the diversity of phenotypic methodologies demonstrated the utility of this exercise. With emerging genotypic technologies looking to supplant phenotyping, there is a need for curated public databases, accessible interpretation tools and standardised control materials for quality management. By establishing a network of testing laboratories, we hope that this EQA scheme will facilitate ongoing progress in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-93
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Drug resistance testing
  • External Quality Assessment
  • Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
  • Phenotypic methods
  • Virus genotyping


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