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Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2009 Sep;28(9):1045-53. doi: 10.1007/s10096-009-0745-1. Epub 2009 May 5.

Molecular diagnostics of intestinal parasites in returning travellers.

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Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Centre, P.O. Box 9600, Leiden 2300 RC, The Netherlands.


A new diagnostic strategy was assessed for the routine diagnosis of intestinal parasites in returning travellers and immigrants. Over a period of 13 months, unpreserved stool samples, patient characteristics and clinical data were collected from those attending a travel clinic. Stool samples were analysed on a daily basis by microscopic examination and antigen detection (i.e. care as usual), and compared with a weekly performed multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis on Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium and Strongyloides stercoralis. Microscopy and antigen assays of 2,591 stool samples showed E. histolytica, G. lamblia, Cryptosporidium and S. stercoralis in 0.3, 4.7, 0.5 and 0.1% of the cases, respectively. These detection rates were increased using real-time PCR to 0.5, 6.0, 1.3 and 0.8%, respectively. The prevalence of ten additional pathogenic parasite species identified with microscopy was, at most, 0.5%. A pre-selective decision tree based on travel history or gastro-intestinal complaints could not be made. With increased detection rates at a lower workload and the potential to extend with additional parasite targets combined with fully automated DNA isolation, molecular high-throughput screening could eventually replace microscopy to a large extent.

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