Assessing an Adaptation of the Universal Parasite Diagnostic Assay for Bloodborne Parasites in a US State Public Health Laboratory

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  • 1 New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center Parasitology Laboratory, Albany, New York;
  • | 2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Parasitic Diseases Branch, Atlanta, Georgia;
  • | 3 Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, Tennessee;
  • | 4 Synergy America Inc., Duluth, Georgia;
  • | 5 SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York

For complex clinical cases where a parasitic infection is suspected, it can be difficult for clinicians to recommend an appropriate laboratory test. These tests are usually pathogen-specific and require a certain degree of suspicion for the precise etiology. Recently, Flaherty et al. (2021) described an assay, the universal parasite diagnostic (UPDx) that can potentially provide a diagnosis of any parasite present in a specimen. Using primers that amplify DNA from all eukaryotes, UPDx differentiates several parasitic infections in blood by amplicon-based next-generation sequencing (NGS) of the 18S rDNA locus. As the state’s public health reference laboratory, the Parasitology Laboratory at the Wadsworth Center (New York, NY) receives specimens from patients who have potentially encountered a wide variety of parasites. As such, the ability to differentiate several blood parasites using a single assay is of interest. We assessed UPDx for its ability to confirm parasitic infections for 20 specimens that were previously identified by real-time PCR (RT-PCR). This included specimens positive for Babesia microti, Trypanosoma cruzi, Leishmania tropica, various Plasmodium species, and specimens comprising mixed Plasmodium sp. infections. Results obtained using UPDx were largely concordant with the RT-PCR assays. A T. cruzi positive specimen was negative by UPDx and for two mixed Plasmodium sp. infections only one species was detected. The results obtained for other specimens were concordant. We conclude that UPDx shows promise for the detection of blood parasites in diagnostic laboratories. As NGS becomes cheaper, assays like UPDx will become increasingly amenable to use in clinical settings.

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Author Notes

Address correspondence to Susan Madison-Antenucci, NYSDOH Wadsworth Center, Parasitology Laboratory, 120 New Scotland Avenue, Room 3112, Albany, NY 12201. E-mail: s.antenucci@health.ny.gov

Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Authors’ addresses: Brooke Clemons, Allen E. Teal, and Susan Madison-Antenucci, New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center Parasitology Laboratory, Albany, NY, E-mails: brooke.clemons@health.ny.gov, allen.teal@health.ny.gov, and s.antenucci@health.ny.gov. Joel Barratt, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Parasitic Diseases Branch, Atlanta, GA, and Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, Oak Ridge, TN, E-mail: nsk9@cdc.gov. Yvonne Qvarnstrom, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Parasitic Diseases Branch, Atlanta, GA, E-mail: bvp2@cdc.gov. Meredith Lane, Synergy America Inc., Duluth, GA, E-mail: oeq5@cdc.gov. Greicy Zayas, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, E-mail: gzdlsm@gmail.com.

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