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Comparison of Serum, Plasma, and Liver Zinc Measurements by AAS, ICP-OES, and ICP-MS in Diverse Laboratory Settings.


Progress improving zinc nutrition globally is slowed by limited understanding of population zinc status. This challenge is compounded when small differences in measurement can bias the determination of zinc deficiency rates. Our objective was to evaluate zinc analytical accuracy and precision among different instrument types and sample matrices using a standardized method. Participating laboratories analyzed zinc content of plasma, serum, liver samples, and controls, using a standardized method based on current practice. Instrument calibration and drift were evaluated using a zinc standard. Accuracy was evaluated by percent error vs. reference, and precision by coefficient of variation (CV). Seven laboratories in 4 countries running 9 instruments completed the exercise: 4 atomic absorbance spectrometers (AAS), 1 inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometer (ICP-OES), and 4 ICP mass spectrometers (ICP-MS). Calibration differed between individual instruments up to 18.9% (p < 0.001). Geometric mean (95% CI) percent error was 3.5% (2.3%, 5.2%) and CV was 2.1% (1.7%, 2.5%) overall. There were no significant differences in percent error or CV among instrument types (p = 0.91, p = 0.15, respectively). Among sample matrices, serum and plasma zinc measures had the highest CV: 4.8% (3.0%, 7.7%) and 3.9% (2.9%, 5.4%), respectively (p < 0.05). When using standardized materials and methods, similar zinc concentration values, accuracy, and precision were achieved using AAS, ICP-OES, or ICP-MS. However, method development is needed for improvement in serum and plasma zinc measurement precision. Differences in calibration among instruments demonstrate a need for harmonization among laboratories.

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