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      Estimating trematode prevalence in snail hosts using a single-step duplex PCR: how badly does cercarial shedding underestimate infection rates?

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          Trematode communities often consist of different species exploiting the same host population, with two or more trematodes sometimes co-occuring in the same host. A commonly used diagnostic method to detect larval trematode infections in snails has been based on cercarial shedding, though it is often criticized as inaccurate. In the present study we compare infection prevalences determined by cercarial emission with those determined, for the first time, by molecular methods, allowing us to quantify the underestimation of single and double infections based on cercarial emission. We thus developed a duplex PCR for two host-parasite systems, to specifically differentiate between single and double infections. The Ebro samples include two morphologically similar opecoelids, whereas the Otago samples include two morphologically different larval trematodes.


          Snails were screened for infections by incubating them individually to induce cercarial emission, thus determining infection following the “classical” detection method. Snail tissue was then removed and fixed for the duplex PCR. After obtaining ITS rDNA sequences, four species-specific primers were designed for each snail-trematode system, and duplex PCR prevalence was determined for each sample. Results from both methods were statistically compared using the McNemar’s Chi-squared test and Cohen’s Kappa Statistic for agreement between outcomes.


          Overall infection prevalences determined by duplex PCR were consistently and substantially higher than those based on cercarial shedding: among Ebro samples, between 17.9% and 60.1% more snails were found infected using the molecular method, whereas in the Otago samples, the difference was between 9.9% and 20.6%. Kappa values generally indicated a fair to substantial agreement between both detection methods, showing a lower agreement for the Ebro samples.


          We demonstrate that molecular detection of single and double infections by duplex PCR strongly outcompetes the classical method. Detection failure is most likely due to immature and covert infections, however, the higher incidence of misidentified double infections in the Ebro samples arises from morphological similarity of closely-related species. The higher accuracy of the duplex PCR method also adds to our understanding of community structure of larval trematodes in snail hosts, by providing a clearer assessment of the importance of interspecific interactions within the host.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Nuclear rDNA ITS sequence variation in the trematode genus Echinostoma: an aid to establishing relationships within the 37-collar-spine group.

          The taxonomic history of members of the 37-collar-spine group within the genus. Echinostoma has been very confused. We obtained DNA sequence data from the nuclear rDNA ITS1, 5.8S and ITS2 of 7 nominal species belonging to this group, Echinostoma trivolvis (Cort, 1914), E. revolutum (Frölich, 1802), E. caproni Richard, 1964, E. liei Jeyarasasingam et al. 1972, E. paransei Lie & Basch, 1967, two African isolates, E. sp.I and E. sp.II, and of one 28-collar-spined echinostome, E. hortense (Asada, 1926). Five of the eight species were clearly distinguishable using ITS data. Sequences from the remaining three taxa, E. caproni, E. sp.II and E. liei were identical to one another and the group containing these taxa was distant from other 37-collar-spine species on a phylogenetic tree. E. trivolvis and E. paraensei form a second, but less distinct group within the 37-collar-spine group. The resolution obtained using DNA sequencing will assist in the current reclassification of the group. It also provides a model for future work on sibling species.
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            The use and implications of ribosomal DNA sequencing for the discrimination of digenean species.

            In just over a decade, the use of molecular approaches for the recognition of parasites has become commonplace. For trematodes, the internal transcribed spacer region of ribosomal DNA (ITS rDNA) has become the default region of choice. Here, we review the findings of 63 studies that report ITS rDNA sequence data for about 155 digenean species from 19 families, and then review the levels of variation that have been reported and how the variation has been interpreted. Overall, complete ITS sequences (or ITS1 or ITS2 regions alone) usually distinguish trematode species clearly, including combinations for which morphology gives ambiguous results. Closely related species may have few base differences and in at least one convincing case the ITS2 sequences of two "good" species are identical. In some cases, the ITS1 region gives greater resolution than the ITS2 because of the presence of variable repeat units that are generally lacking in the ITS2. Intraspecific variation is usually low and frequently apparently absent. Information on geographical variation of digeneans is limited but at least some of the reported variation probably reflects the presence of multiple species. Despite the accepted dogma that concerted evolution makes the individual representative of the entire species, a significant number of studies have reported at least some intraspecific variation. The significance of such variation is difficult to assess a posteriori, but it seems likely that identification and sequencing errors account for some of it and failure to recognise separate species may also be significant. Some reported variation clearly requires further analysis. The use of a "yardstick" to determine when separate species should be recognised is flawed. Instead, we argue that consistent genetic differences that are associated with consistent morphological or biological traits should be considered the marker for separate species. We propose a generalised approach to the use of rDNA to distinguish trematode species.
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              PCR Diagnosis of Opisthorchis viverrini and Haplorchis taichui Infections in a Lao Community in an area of endemicity and comparison of diagnostic methods for parasitological field surveys.

              Opisthorchiasis is a major public health problem in Southeast Asia. Affected individuals often have mixed infections with the liver fluke Opisthorchis viverrini and minute intestinal flukes such as Haplorchis taichui. The usual methods of diagnosing these infections involve the demonstration of fluke eggs in stool samples under light microscopy, but sensitivity and specificity are low. We developed two PCR tests that detect and discriminate between O. viverrini and H. taichui infections. PCR tests were validated by stool samples from purged individuals. We then applied the PCR tests to estimate the prevalence of O. viverrini and H. taichui infections from a random sample of individuals selected from a community in an area of endemicity in Khong District, Laos. PCR results were compared with those from the Kato-Katz (KK) method and the formalin-ether concentration technique (FECT). When validated with purge results, PCR tests of O. viverrini and H. taichui had sensitivities of 93.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 85.8 to 97.9%) and 73.3% (95% CI, 60.3 to 83.9%) and could detect as little as 0.75 pg DNA and 1.32 ng DNA, respectively. The PCR-determined community prevalences of O. viverrini and H. taichui infections were 63.9% (95% CI, 54.1 to 72.9%) and 30.6% (95% CI, 22.1 to 40.2%), respectively. Using PCR as the gold standard to detect O. viverrini, three KK thick smears performed comparably well, whereas one KK smear and FECT were poorer (sensitivities of 91.4% [95% CI, 81.0 to 97.1%,], 62.3% [95% CI, 49.8 to 73.7%], and 49.3% [95% CI, 37.0 to 61.6%], respectively). PCR may be a valuable and sensitive diagnostic tool, particularly for low-intensity O. viverrini and H. taichui infections.

                Author and article information

                Parasit Vectors
                Parasit Vectors
                Parasites & Vectors
                BioMed Central
                27 May 2014
                : 7
                : 243
                [1 ]Cavanilles Institute for Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, Science Park, University of Valencia, PO Box 22 085, 46071 Valencia, Spain
                [2 ]Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
                [3 ]Institute of Parasitology, Biology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Branišovská 31, 370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic
                Copyright © 2014 Born-Torrijos et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



                double infection, snail host, detection, prevalence, single-step duplex pcr


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