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Bayesian Analysis of Serial Dilution Assays

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In a serial dilution assay, the concentration of a compound is estimated by combining measurements of several different dilutions of an unknown sample. The relation between concentration and measurement is nonlinear and heteroscedastic, and so it is not appropriate to weight these measurements equally. In the standard existing approach for analysis of these data, a large proportion of the measurements are discarded as being above or below detection limits. We present a Bayesian method for jointly estimating the calibration curve and the unknown concentrations using all the data. Compared to the existing method, our estimates have much lower standard errors and give estimates even when all the measurements are outside the “detection limits.” We evaluate our method empirically using laboratory data on cockroach allergens measured in house dust samples. Our estimates are much more accurate than those obtained using the usual approach. In addition, we develop a method for determining the “effective weight” attached to each measurement, based on a local linearization of the estimated model. The effective weight can give insight into the information conveyed by each data point and suggests potential improvements in design of serial dilution experiments.

Keywords: Assay; Bayesian inference; Detection limit; Elisa; Measurement error models; Serial dilution; Weighted average

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Health, Columbia University, New York 10032, U.S.A. 2: Department of Statistics, Columbia University, New York 10027, U.S.A.

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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