Background: Traditional methods using microscopy for the detection of helminth infections have limited sensitivity. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays enhance detection of helminths, particularly low burden infections. However, differences in test performance may modify the ability to detect associations between helminth infection, risk factors, and sequelae. We compared these associations using microscopy and PCR. Methods: This cross-sectional study was nested within a randomized clinical trial conducted at 3 sites in Kenya. We performed microscopy and real-time multiplex PCR for the stool detection and quantification of Ascaris lumbricoides, Necator americanus, Ancylostoma duodenale, Strongyloides stercoralis, and Schistosoma species. We utilized regression to evaluate associations between potential risk factors or outcomes and infection as detected by either method. Results: Of 153 HIV-positive adults surveyed, 55(36.0%) and 20(13.1%) were positive for one or more helminth species by PCR and microscopy, respectively (p<0.001). PCR-detected infections were associated with farming (Prevalence Ratio 1.57, 95% CI: 1.02, 2.40), communal water source (PR 3.80, 95% CI: 1.01, 14.27), and no primary education (PR 1.54, 95% CI: 1.14, 2.33), whereas microscopy-detected infections were not associated with any risk factors under investigation. Microscopy-detected infections were associated with significantly lower hematocrit and hemoglobin (means of -3.56% and -0.77 g/dl) and a 48% higher risk of anemia (PR 1.48, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.88) compared to uninfected. Such associations were absent for PCR-detected infections unless infection intensity was considered, Infections diagnosed with either method were associated with increased risk of eosinophilia (PCR PR 2.42, 95% CI: 1.02, 5.76; microscopy PR 2.92, 95% CI: 1.29, 6.60). Conclusion: Newer diagnostic methods, including PCR, improve the detection of helminth infections. This heightened sensitivity may improve the identification of risk factors for infection while reducing ability to discriminate infections associated with adverse clinical outcomes. Quantitative assays can be used to differentiate infection loads and discriminate infections associated with sequelae. © 2013 Arndt et al.
Arndt, M. B., John-Stewart, G., Richardson, B. A., Singa, B., Van Lieshout, L., Verweij, J. J., … Walson, J. L. (2013). Impact of helminth diagnostic test performance on estimation of risk factors and outcomes in HIV-positive adults. PLoS ONE, 8(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0081915