Detection by PCR of pathogenic protozoa in raw and drinkable water samples in Colombia

Parasitol Res. 2016 May;115(5):1789-97. doi: 10.1007/s00436-016-4917-5. Epub 2016 Jan 16.


We evaluated the presence of DNA of Giardia, Toxoplasma, and Cryptosporidium by PCR, and of Giardia and Cryptosporidium genera by immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT), in water samples, before, during, and after plant treatment for drinkable water. We applied this method in 38 samples of 10 l of water taken from each of the water treatment steps and in 8 samples taken at home (only for Toxoplasma PCR) in Quindio region in Colombia. There were 8 positive samples for Cryptosporidium parvum (21 %), 4 for Cryptosporidium hominis (10.5 %), 27 for Toxoplasma gondii (58.6 %), 2 for Giardia duodenalis assemblage A (5.2 %), and 5 for G. duodenalis assemblage B (13.1 %). By IFAT, 23 % were positive for Giardia and 21 % for Cryptosporidium. An almost perfect agreement was found between IFAT and combined results of PCR, by Kappa composite proportion analysis. PCR positive samples were significantly more frequent in untreated raw water for C. parvum (p = 0.02). High mean of fecal coliforms, high pH values, and low mean of chlorine residuals were strongly correlated with PCR positivity for G. duodenalis assemblage B. High pH value was correlated with PCR positivity for C. parvum. Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequences was possible, showing water and human clinical sequences for Toxoplasma within the same phylogenetic group for B1 repeated sequence. PCR assay is complementary to IFAT assay for monitoring of protozoa in raw and drinkable water, enabling species identification and to look for phylogenetic analysis in protozoa from human and environmental sources.

Keywords: Colombia; Cryptosporidium; Giardia; PCR; Protozoa; Toxoplasma; Waterborne diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Colombia
  • Cryptosporidiosis / parasitology
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / classification
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / genetics
  • Cryptosporidium parvum / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Drinking Water / parasitology*
  • Feces / parasitology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct / methods
  • Giardia lamblia / classification
  • Giardia lamblia / genetics
  • Giardia lamblia / isolation & purification*
  • Giardiasis / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Toxoplasma / classification
  • Toxoplasma / genetics
  • Toxoplasma / isolation & purification*
  • Toxoplasmosis / parasitology
  • Water Purification*


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Drinking Water
  • Protozoan Proteins