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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1998 Jul;59(1):144-9.

Human occult loiasis: improvement in diagnostic sensitivity by the use of a nested polymerase chain reaction.

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Centre International de Recherches Médicales de Franceville, Gabon.


The development of control strategies for loiasis is of crucial importance in endemic areas and depends heavily on the accurate identification of occult-infected individuals. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and nested polymerase chain reaction (nested PCR) were developed and based on sequences of the repeat 3 region (15r3) of the gene encoding a Loa loa 15-kD protein. The assays was performed on 20 blood samples from occult-infected subjects and 30 from field-collected amicrofilaremic individuals. The size of the initial PCR product was 396 basepairs (bp). When this initial amplification using primers 15r3(1) and 15r3(2) was carried out for 30 cycles, the PCR products from three of the 20 occult-infected and five of the 30 amicrofilaremic individuals were visualized after electrophoresis by staining the gel with ethidium bromide. Subsequent Southern blotting and hybridization with the specific probe revealed hybridization in 19 of 20 occult-infected and 23 of 30 amicrofilaremic samples but only after two days of exposure of the blot to the x-ray film. When the nested PCR was carried out (product size = 366 bp, primers 15r3(3) and 15r3(4)), 19 of 20 occult-infected and 23 of 30 amicrofilaremic samples that were positive by Southern hybridization of the initial PCR products were strongly positive by staining with ethidium bromide. Qualitative Southern blotting of the nested PCR products using the same probe previously described confirmed the ethidium bromide staining results after a very short exposure time of 4 hr. These results demonstrate that the nested PCR amplification product is specific and that its sensitivity in detecting occult loiasis is 95%. This approach has significant promise for the screening of large human populations for active loiasis without the requirement for blotting and hybridization of the PCR products.

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