Journal of Helminthology

Research Papers

Rapid diagnostic multiplex PCR (RD-PCR) to discriminate Schistosoma haematobium and S. bovis

B.L. Webstera1 c1, D. Rollinsona1, J.R. Stotharda1 and T. Huysea2a3

a1 Wolfson Wellcome Biomedical Laboratories, Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK

a2 Department of Parasitology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nationalestraat 155, B-2000 Antwerpen, Belgium

a3 Laboratory of Animal Diversity and Systematics, Catholic University of Leuven, Ch. de Beriotstraat 32, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium


Schistosoma haematobium and S. bovis are widespread schistosome species causing human and cattle schistosomiasis, respectively, in Africa. The sympatric occurrence of these two species and their ability to infect the same Bulinus intermediate snail hosts necessitates precise methods of identification of the larval stages. A rapid diagnostic ‘mulitplex’ one-step polymerase chain reaction protocol (RD-PCR) was developed using cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COX1) mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to discriminate between S. haematobium and S. bovis. A single forward primer and two species-specific reverse primers were used to produce a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) fragment of 306 bp and 543 bp for S. bovis and S. haematobium, respectively. Serial dilutions were carried out on various lifecycle stages and species combinations to test the sensitivity and specificity of the primers. This RD-PCR proved highly sensitive, detecting a single larval stage and as little as 0.78 ng of genomic DNA (gDNA) from an adult schistosome, providing a cost-effective, rapid and robust molecular tool for high-throughput screening of S. haematobium and S. bovis populations. In areas where human and cattle schistosomiasis overlap and are transmitted in close proximity, this mitochondrial assay will be a valuable identification tool for epidemiological studies, especially when used in conjunction with other nuclear diagnostic markers.

(Accepted April 30 2009)

(Online publication August 03 2009)


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