Detection of intestinal protozoa in paediatric patients with gastrointestinal symptoms by multiplex real-time PCR

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Abstract

The performance of a multiplex real-time PCR for the detection of Blastocystis, Dientamoeba fragilis, Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium species and Entamoeba species in faecal samples was evaluated in an observational prospective study. Paediatric patients (0–18 years) presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms and suspected of having enteroparasitic disease were included. A questionnaire on gastrointestinal symptoms and the chosen treatment was completed at the start of the study and after 6 weeks. Of 163 paediatric patients (mean age, 7.8 years), 114 (70%) had a PCR-positive faecal sample. D. fragilis was detected most frequently, in 101 patients, followed by Blastocystis in 49. In faecal samples of 47 patients, more than one protozoan was detected, mainly the combination of D. fragilis and Blastocystis. Reported gastrointestinal symptoms were abdominal pain (78%), nausea (30%), and altered bowel habits (28%). Eighty-nine of the PCR-positive patients were treated with antibiotics. A significant reduction in abdominal pain was observed both in treated and in untreated patients. This study demonstrated that multiplex real-time PCR detects a high percentage of intestinal protozoa in paediatric patients with gastrointestinal symptoms. However, interpretation and determination of the clinical relevance of a positive PCR result in this population are still difficult.

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