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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2018

Influence of sample collection tube method, anticoagulant-containing plasma versus serum, on influenza virus hemagglutination inhibition titer and microneutralization titer serological assays

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Brian J. Morrison, Nicholas J. Martin, Tauseef Rehman, Dan Ewing, Robin L. Dewar, Julia Metcalf, Peifang Sun, John Beigel, Thomas C. Luke, Kanakatte Raviprakash
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12913-018-3465-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



The hemagglutination-inhibition (HAI) assay is a critical component for measurement of immunogenicity in influenza vaccine development. It is unknown if the results can be influenced by sample type and anticoagulants. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the influence of different sample collection methods, in particular different anticoagulants, and choice of plasma or serum, on influenza virus serological assays.


Blood samples from thirty donors previously immunized against influenza viruses were collected using six different types of blood collection tubes, two of which collect serum and four of which contain various anticoagulants for collecting plasma. Serum: (1) serum separator tubes (SST); and (2) Plus Plastic serum “red-top serum” tubes. Plasma: (3) spray-coated K2 ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) tubes: (4) Sodium Heparin tubes; (5) Citrate tubes with 3.2% sodium citrate solution; and (6) Glass Blood Collection tubes with acid citrate dextrose. Samples were tested against three different influenza viruses (A/California/07/2009 (H1N1pdm09), A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2), and B/Massachusetts/2/2012) for hemagglutination inhibition titer and virus neutralization titer via a microneutralization (MN) assay, and data compared to that obtained for standard serum sample collected in SST.


HAI and MN titers against type A viruses were within two dilutions compared to SST collection method over 96% of the time irrespective of sample type or anticoagulant. However, HAI titers for type B virus were more variable across different collection methods. EDTA plasma samples were greater than two dilutions higher than SST serum samples 70% (21 of 30 samples) of the time. In contrast, MN titers were within two dilutions over 96% of the time, with the highest deviation noted in acid citrate dextrose plasma samples (3 of 30 samples tested, 10%).


These data provide useful guidelines for sample collection and serology testing when screening: (i) influenza vaccine immunogenicity antibody response; (ii) antibody responses to newly emerging viral strains; and (iii) clinical samples for anti-influenza antibody activity.
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