Background: Fascioliasis is a worldwide parasitic disease of domestic animals caused by helminths of the genus Fasciola. In many parts of the world, particularly in poor rural areas where animal disease is endemic, the parasite also infects humans. Adult parasites reside in the bile ducts of the host and therefore diagnosis of human fascioliasis is usually achieved by coprological examinations that search for parasite eggs that are carried into the intestine with the bile juices. However, these methods are insensitive due to the fact that eggs are released sporadically and may be missed in low-level infections, and fasciola eggs may be misclassified as other parasites, leading to problems with specificity. Furthermore, acute clinical symptoms as a result of parasites migrating to the bile ducts appear before the parasite matures and begins egg laying. A human immune response to Fasciola antigens occurs early in infection. Therefore, an immunological method such as ELISA may be a more reliable, easy and cheap means to diagnose human fascioliasis than coprological analysis.
Methodology/principal findings: Using a panel of serum from Fasciola hepatica-infected patients and from uninfected controls we have optimized an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) which employs a recombinant form of the major F. hepatica cathepsin L1 as the antigen for the diagnosis of human fascioliasis. We examined the ability of the ELISA test to discern fascioliasis from various other helminth and non-helminth parasitic diseases.
Conclusions/significance: A sensitive and specific fascioliasis ELISA test has been developed. This test is rapid and easy to use and can discriminate fasciola-infected individuals from patients harbouring other parasites with at least 99.9% sensitivity and 99.9% specificity. This test will be a useful standardized method not only for testing individual samples but also in mass screening programs to assess the extent of human fascioliasis in regions where this zoonosis is suspected.