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Under-reporting giardiasis: time to consider the public health implications

  • S. L. CURRIE (a1), N. STEPHENSON (a2), A. S. PALMER (a3), B. L. JONES (a1) and C. L. ALEXANDER (a1)...
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Summary

Giardiasis is a treatable disease, caused by the flagellated protozoan parasite, Giardia duodenalis (G. duodenalis). It is one of the most common enteric parasites found globally to cause gastrointestinal disturbances, and infections may result in long-term irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms. It is a common misconception that giardiasis is associated with foreign travel, which results in locally acquired cases in the UK being underdiagnosed. This report highlights the findings from one large Scottish Health Board, arising from a change in testing methodology, which resulted in the screening of all stools submitted for enteric investigations for G. duodenalis. Previous selection criteria were restricted to patients with a travel history to specific regions of the world, or on the basis of certain clinical details. In this report, clinical details were recorded from samples shown to be positive using two methods: an ELISA-based antigen detection assay and microscopy. Clinical details were assessed for a total of 28 laboratory-confirmed positive cases against the original selection criteria. Twenty-six cases (93%) would have been excluded from Giardia testing if the previous selection criteria had been applied. Although nine cases stated foreign travel, only two had been to regions deemed to be ‘high risk’. Therefore, those seven cases that travelled to perceived ‘low-risk’ regions would have been excluded from testing for this reason. This summary highlights the need for significant improvements to the selection criteria for Giardia testing. Laboratories should be encouraged towards the testing of all routinely submitted stools for this neglected pathogen to ensure cases that are acquired locally are properly identified and treated effectively.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence: Dr C. L. Alexander, Scottish Parasite Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory, Glasgow G31 2ER, Scotland, UK. (Email: Claire.Alexander@ggc.scot.nhs.uk)

References

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