Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Scanlan, PD;Stensvold, CR;Cotter, PD
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Development and Application of a Blastocystis Subtype-Specific PCR Assay Reveals that Mixed-Subtype Infections Are Common in a Healthy Human Population
Optional Fields
The human gut is host to a diversity of microorganisms, including the single-celled microbial eukaryote Blastocystis. Research has shown that most carriers host a single Blastocystis subtype (ST), which is unusual given the considerable within-host species diversity observed for other microbial genera in this ecosystem. However, our limited knowledge of both the incidence and biological significance of Blastocystis diversity within hosts (i.e., so-called mixed infections) is likely due to problems with existing methodologies. Here, we developed and applied Blastocystis ST-specific PCRs for the investigation of the most common subtypes of Blastocystis (ST1 to ST4) to a healthy human cohort (n = 50). We detected mixed infections in 22% of the cases, all of which had been identified as single-ST infections in a previous study using state-of-the-art methods. Our results show that certain STs occur predominantly as either single (ST3 and 4) or mixed (ST1) infections, which may reflect inter alia transient colonization patterns and/or cooperative or competitive interactions between different STs. Comparative analyses with other primers that have been used extensively for ST-specific analysis found them unsuitable for detection of mixed-and, in some cases, single-ST infections. Collectively, our data shed new light on the diversity of Blastocystis within and between human hosts. Moreover, the development of these PCR assays will facilitate future work on the molecular epidemiology and significance of mixed infections in groups of interest, including health and disease cohorts, and also help identify sources of Blastocystis transmission to humans, including identifying potential animal and environmental reservoirs.
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