Development of a PCR-Enzyme Immunoassay Oligoprobe Detection Method for Toxoplasma gondii Oocysts, Incorporating PCR Controls

Kellogg J. Schwab, James J. McDevitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Infections caused by Toxoplasma gondii are widely prevalent in animals and humans throughout the world. In the United States, an estimated 23% of adolescents and adults have laboratory evidence of T. gondii infection. T. gondii has been identified as a major opportunistic pathogen in immunocompromised individuals, in whom it can cause life-threatening disease. Water contaminated with feces from domestic cats or other felids may be an important source of human exposure to T. gondii oocysts. Because of the lack of information regarding the prevalence of T. gondii in surface waters, there is a clear need for a rapid, sensitive method to detect T. gondii from water. Currently available animal models and cell culture methods are time-consuming, expensive, and labor-intensive, requiring days or weeks for results to be obtained. Detection of T. gondii nucleic acid by PCR has become the preferred method. We have developed a PCR amplification and detection method for T. gondii oocyst nucleic acid that incorporates the use of hot-start amplification to reduce nonspecific primer annealing, uracil-N-glycosylase to prevent false-positive results due to carryover contamination, an internal standard control to identify false-negative results due to inadequate removal of sample inhibition, and PCR product oligoprobe confirmation using a nonradioactive DNA hybridization immunoassay. This method can provide positive, confirmed results in less than 1 day. Fewer than 50 oocysts can be detected following recovery of oocyst DNA. Development of a T. gondii oocyst PCR detection method will provide a useful technique to estimate the levels of T. gondii oocysts present in surface waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5819-5825
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Ecology


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