Introduction: A lack of prospective and longitudinal data on pre- and post-travel carriage of Blastocystis spp. complicates interpretation of a positive test post-travel. Therefore we studied dynamics of Blastocystis carriage in a cohort of Dutch travellers. Methods: From the prospective, multicentre COMBAT study among 2001 Dutch travellers, a subset of 491 travellers was selected based on travel destination to 7 subregions (70 or 71 travellers each). Faecal samples taken directly before and after travel were screened for Blastocystis with qPCR, followed, when positive, by sequence analysis to determine subtypes. Results: After exclusion of 12 samples with missing samples or inhibited qPCR-reactions, stool samples of 479 travellers were analysed. Before travel, 174 of them (36.3%) carried Blastocystis and in most of these, the same subtype was persistently carried. However, in 48/174 of those travellers (27.6%; CI95 20.8–36.6%) no Blastocystis or a different subtype was detected in the post-travel sample, indicating loss of Blastocystis during travel. Only 26 (5.4%; CI95 3.7%–8.0%) of all travellers acquired Blastocystis, including two individuals that were already positive for Blastocystis before travel but acquired a different subtype during travel. Discussion: This study shows that Blastocystis carriage in travellers is highly dynamic. The observed acquisition and loss of Blastocystis could either be travel-related or reflect the natural course of Blastocystis carriage. We demonstrate that the majority of Blastocystis detected in post-travel samples were already carried before travel.

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Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease
Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

van Hattem, J.M, Arcilla, M.S, Schultsz, C. (Constance), Bootsma, M.C.J, Verhaar, N. (Nienke), Rebers, S, … Verbrugh, H.A. (2018). Carriage of Blastocystis spp. in travellers - A prospective longitudinal study. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. doi:10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.06.005