Detection of diarrhoea-causing protozoa in general practice patients in The Netherlands by multiplex real-time PCR


Corresponding author and reprint requests: R. ten Hove, Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Center, PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands


The diagnostic value of a multiplex real-time PCR for the detection of Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum/Cryptosporidium hominis was evaluated by comparing the PCR results obtained with those of routinely performed microscopy of faecal samples from patients consulting their general practitioner (GP) because of gastrointestinal complaints. Analysis of 722 faecal DNA samples revealed that the prevalence of G. lamblia was 9.3% according to PCR, as compared to 5.7% by microscopy. The number of infections detected was more than double in children of school age. Furthermore, G. lamblia infection was detected in 15 (6.6%) of 228 faecal samples submitted to the laboratory for bacterial culture only. C. parvum/C. hominis infections were not diagnosed by routine procedures, but DNA from these organisms was detected in 4.3% of 950 DNA samples. A strong association with age was noted, with Cryptosporidium being detected in 21.8% of 110 children aged <5 years. C. hominis was the most prevalent species. E. histolytica was not detected in this study population. Analysis of microscopy data revealed that the number of additional parasites missed by PCR was small. Overall, the study demonstrated that a multiplex real-time PCR approach is a feasible diagnostic alternative in the clinical laboratory for the detection of parasitic infections in patients consulting GPs because of gastrointestinal symptoms.