Low Sensitivity of Real Time PCRs Targeting Retrotransposon Sequences for the Detection of Schistosoma japonicum Complex DNA in Human Serum

Pathogens. 2021 Aug 22;10(8):1067. doi: 10.3390/pathogens10081067.


While hybridization probe-based real-time PCR assays targeting highly repetitive multi-copy genome sequences for the diagnosis of S. mansoni complex or S. haematobium complex from human serum are well established, reports on the evaluation of respective assays for the identification of S. japonicum complex DNA in human serum are scarce. Here, we assessed the potential use of the retrotransposon sequences SjR2 and SjCHGCS19 from S. japonicum, S. mekongi and S. malayensis for the diagnosis of Asian Schistosoma infections. Based on available S. japonicum sequences and newly provided S. mekongi and S. malayensis sequences, hybridization probe-based real-time PCRs targeting SjR2 and SjCHGCS19 of the S. japonicum complex were designed both as consensus primer assays as well as multi-primer assays for the coverage of multiple variants of the target sequences. The assays were established using plasmids and S. mekongi DNA. While the consensus primer assays failed to detect S. mekongi DNA in human serum samples, the multi-primer assays showed positive or borderline positive results but only in 9.8% (6/61) of serum samples from patients with confirmed S. mekongi infections. Some cross-reactions with samples positive for S. mansoni or S. haematobium were observed but with the SjCHGCS19-PCR only. In spite of the low sensitivity, the presented experience may guide future evaluations of S. japonicum-complex-specific PCRs from human serum.

Keywords: Schistosoma malayensis; Schistosoma mekongi; diagnosis; hybridization probe; molecular diagnostics; multi-copy target; retrotransposon; schistosomiasis; test accuracy; test evaluation.