The soil transmitted helminths are a group of parasitic worms responsible for extensive morbidity in many of the world’s most economically depressed locations. With growing emphasis on disease mapping and eradication, the availability of accurate and cost-effective diagnostic measures is of paramount importance to global control and elimination efforts. While real-time PCR-based molecular detection assays have shown great promise, to date, these assays have utilized sub-optimal targets. By performing next-generation sequencing-based repeat analyses, we have identified high copy-number, non-coding DNA sequences from a series of soil transmitted pathogens. We have used these repetitive DNA elements as targets in the development of novel, multi-parallel, PCR-based diagnostic assays.
Utilizing next-generation sequencing and the Galaxy-based RepeatExplorer web server, we performed repeat DNA analysis on five species of soil transmitted helminths ( Necator americanus, Ancylostoma duodenale, Trichuris trichiura, Ascaris lumbricoides, and Strongyloides stercoralis). Employing high copy-number, non-coding repeat DNA sequences as targets, novel real-time PCR assays were designed, and assays were tested against established molecular detection methods. Each assay provided consistent detection of genomic DNA at quantities of 2 fg or less, demonstrated species-specificity, and showed an improved limit of detection over the existing, proven PCR-based assay.
The utilization of next-generation sequencing-based repeat DNA analysis methodologies for the identification of molecular diagnostic targets has the ability to improve assay species-specificity and limits of detection. By exploiting such high copy-number repeat sequences, the assays described here will facilitate soil transmitted helminth diagnostic efforts. We recommend similar analyses when designing PCR-based diagnostic tests for the detection of other eukaryotic pathogens.
With a growing emphasis on the mapping and elimination of soil transmitted helminth (STH) infections, the need for optimal and specific diagnostic methods is increasing. While PCR-based diagnostic methods for the detection of these parasitic organisms exist, these assays make use of sub-optimal target sequences. By designing assays that target non-coding, high copy-number repetitive sequences, both the limit of detection and species-specificity of detection improve. Using next-generation sequencing technology, we have identified high copy-number repeats for a series of STH species responsible for the greatest burden of disease. Using these repetitive sequences as targets in the design of novel real-time PCR assays, we have improved both the limits of detection and species-specificity of detection, and we have demonstrated this improved detection by testing these assays against an established PCR-based diagnostic methodology. Accordingly, these assays should facilitate mapping and monitoring efforts, and the generalized application of this approach to assay design should improve detection efforts for other eukaryotic pathogens.