Giardia lamblia is one of the most common intestinal parasites worldwide, with microscopy being the diagnostic reference standard for use with human stools. However, microscopy is time-consuming, labour-intensive and lacks sensitivity when single stools are examined. In the present study, microscopy, real-time PCR and a rapid immunoassay were compared for the detection of G. lamblia in human stools. All three methods were highly sensitive, with values of 99%, 100% and 98%, respectively. Specificity and positive and negative predictive values were ≥97%, except when using real-time PCR, for which the specificity and positive predictive value were 92% and 93%, respectively. The lower specificity of real-time PCR was associated mostly with failure to detect specimens regarded as true positives for G. lamblia DNA, although cross-contamination was suspected in a minority of cases because of the large amount of G. lamblia DNA present in most positive specimens. It was concluded that microscopy should remain the primary diagnostic tool for identifying G. lamblia in human stools, mainly because of its ability to simultaneously detect other gastrointestinal parasites. However, the simple and rapid immunoassay is a valuable tool to decrease turn-around time. Real-time PCR provides additional sensitivity, although there is a risk of cross-contamination. Based on this observation, and the need for other real-time assays to be developed to detect other intestinal parasites, real-time PCR is currently useful only as an additional test supplementary to microscopy. © 2007 Department of R&D, Laboratory for Infectious Diseases. Journal Compilation

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Clinical Microbiology and Infection
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Schuurman, T., Lankamp, P., van Belkum, A., Kooistra-Smid, M., & van Zwet, A. (2007). Comparison of microscopy, real-time PCR and a rapid immunoassay for the detection of Giardia lamblia in human stool specimens. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 13(12), 1187–1191. doi:10.1111/j.1469-0691.2007.01836.x