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Acta Trop. 2007 Sep;103(3):195-200. Epub 2007 Jun 23.

Development of a real-time PCR assay for Trypanosoma cruzi detection in blood samples.

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Transfusion Safety Laboratory, Banc de Sang i Teixits, Barcelona, Spain.


The aim of this study was to develop a real-time PCR technique to detect Trypanosoma cruzi DNA in blood of chagasic patients. Analytical sensitivity of the real-time PCR was assessed by two-fold serial dilutions of T. cruzi epimastigotes in seronegative blood (7.8 down to 0.06 epimastigotes/mL). Clinical sensitivity was tested in 38 blood samples from adult chronic chagasic patients and 1 blood sample from a child with an acute congenital infection. Specificity was assessed with 100 seronegative subjects from endemic areas, 24 seronegative subjects from non-endemic area and 20 patients with Leishmania infantum-visceral leishmaniosis. Real-time PCR was designed to amplify a fragment of 166 bp in the satellite DNA of T. cruzi. As internal control of amplification human RNase P gene was coamplified, and uracil-N-glycosylase (UNG) was added to the reaction to avoid false positives due to PCR contamination. Samples were also analysed by a previously described nested PCR (N-PCR) that amplifies the same DNA region as the real-time PCR. Sensitivity of the real-time PCR was 0.8 parasites/mL (50% positive hit rate) and 2 parasites/mL (95% positive hit rate). None of the seronegative samples was positive by real-time PCR, resulting in 100% specificity. Sixteen out of 39 patients were positive by real-time PCR (41%). Concordance of results with the N-PCR was 90%. In conclusion, real-time PCR provides an optimal alternative to N-PCR, with similar sensitivity and higher throughput, and could help determine ongoing parasitaemia in chagasic patients.

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