A polymerase chain reaction assay for detecting snails infected with bilharzia parasites (Schistosoma mansoni) from very early prepatency.

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  • 1 Kuvin Centre, Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.

In the present study, we adapted a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, previously shown by us to be very sensitive for detecting cercariae in water, for the sensitive detection of Schistosoma mansoni DNA in infected snails from early prepatency. Polymerase chain reaction primers were designed based on the 121-basepair highly repeated sequence we previously identified in the genome of S. mansoni. The DNA was prepared from the snails by a simple alkaline extraction procedure, and the PCR assay enabled a clear differentiation between infected and normal snails. Infected snails were detected as early as one day after penetration of a single miracidium. The high sensitivity of the test enabled identification of a single infected snail even when its DNA was pooled with material from up to 99 uninfected snails, thus demonstrating the possibility of mass diagnosis in pools of snails. The assay has the potential for large-scale determination of prepatent infection prevalence in snails, thus offering new possibilities for the evaluation of schistosomiasis transmission and for schistosomiasis control, as discussed.