Background: Chagas disease (CD) is a major burden in Latin America, expanding also to non-endemic countries. A gold standard to detect the CD causing pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi
is currently not available. Existing real time polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCRs) lack sensitivity and/or specificity. We present a new, highly specific RT-PCR for the diagnosis and monitoring of CD. Material and Methods: We analyzed 352 serum samples from Indigenous people living in high endemic CD areas of Colombia using three leading RT-PCRs (k-DNA-, TCZ-, 18S rRNA-PCR), the newly developed one (NDO-PCR), a Rapid Test/enzyme-linked immuno sorbent assay (ELISA), and immunofluorescence. Eighty-seven PCR-products were verified by sequence analysis after plasmid vector preparation. Results: The NDO-PCR showed the highest sensitivity (92.3%), specificity (100%), and accuracy (94.3%) for T. cruzi
detection in the 87 sequenced samples. Sensitivities and specificities of the kDNA-PCR were 89.2%/22.7%, 20.5%/100% for TCZ-PCR, and 1.5%/100% for the 18S rRNA-PCR. The kDNA-PCR revealed a 77.3% false positive rate, mostly due to cross-reactions with T. rangeli
(NDO-PCR 0%). TCZ- and 18S rRNA-PCR showed a false negative rate of 79.5% and 98.5% (NDO-PCR 7.7%), respectively. Conclusions: The NDO-PCR demonstrated the highest specificity, sensitivity, and accuracy compared to leading PCRs. Together with serologic tests, it can be considered as a reliable tool for CD detection and can improve CD management significantly.
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