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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2008 Jun 18;2(6):e251. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000251.

A reverse transcriptase-PCR assay for detecting filarial infective larvae in mosquitoes.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA.



Existing molecular assays for filarial parasite DNA in mosquitoes cannot distinguish between infected mosquitoes that contain any stage of the parasite and infective mosquitoes that harbor third stage larvae (L3) capable of establishing new infections in humans. We now report development of a molecular L3-detection assay for Brugia malayi in vectors based on RT-PCR detection of an L3-activated gene transcript.


Candidate genes identified by bioinformatics analysis of EST datasets across the B. malayi life cycle were initially screened by PCR using cDNA libraries as templates. Stage-specificity was confirmed using RNA isolated from infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes were collected daily for 14 days after feeding on microfilaremic cat blood. RT-PCR was performed with primer sets that were specific for individual candidate genes. Many promising candidates with strong expression in the L3 stage were excluded because of low-level transcription in less mature larvae. One transcript (TC8100, which encodes a particular form of collagen) was only detected in mosquitoes that contained L3 larvae. This assay detects a single L3 in a pool of 25 mosquitoes.


This L3-activated gene transcript, combined with a control transcript (tph-1, accession # U80971) that is constitutively expressed by all vector-stage filarial larvae, can be used to detect filarial infectivity in pools of mosquito vectors. This general approach (detection of stage-specific gene transcripts from eukaryotic pathogens) may also be useful for detecting infective stages of other vector-borne parasites.

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