Parasitological diagnosis combining an internally controlled real-time PCR assay for the detection of four protozoa in stool samples with a testing algorithm for microscopy

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2009 Sep;15(9):869-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-0691.2009.02894.x. Epub 2009 Jul 14.


Molecular detection of gastrointestinal protozoa is more sensitive and more specific than microscopy but, to date, has not routinely replaced time-consuming microscopic analysis. Two internally controlled real-time PCR assays for the combined detection of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium spp. and Dientamoeba fragilis in single faecal samples were compared with Triple Faeces Test (TFT) microscopy results from 397 patient samples. Additionally, an algorithm for complete parasitological diagnosis was created. Real-time PCR revealed 152 (38.3%) positive cases, 18 of which were double infections: one (0.3%) sample was positive for E. histolytica, 44 (11.1%) samples were positive for G. lamblia, 122 (30.7%) samples were positive for D. fragilis, and three (0.8%) samples were positive for Cryptosporidium. TFT microscopy yielded 96 (24.2%) positive cases, including five double infections: one sample was positive for E. histolytica/Entamoeba dispar, 29 (7.3%) samples were positive for G. lamblia, 69 (17.4%) samples were positive for D. fragilis, and two (0.5%) samples were positive for Cryptosporidium hominis/Cryptosporidium parvum. Retrospective analysis of the clinical patient information of 2887 TFT sets showed that eosinophilia, elevated IgE levels, adoption and travelling to (sub)tropical areas are predisposing factors for infection with non-protozoal gastrointestinal parasites. The proposed diagnostic algorithm includes application of real-time PCR to all samples, with the addition of microscopy on an unpreserved faecal sample in cases of a predisposing factor, or a repeat request for parasitological examination. Application of real-time PCR improved the diagnostic yield by 18%. A single stool sample is sufficient for complete parasitological diagnosis when an algorithm based on clinical information is applied.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Eukaryota / cytology
  • Eukaryota / genetics
  • Eukaryota / isolation & purification*
  • Feces / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Protozoan Infections / diagnosis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity