2022;: e0262822 -

Parasitemia Levels in Trypanosoma cruzi Infection in Spain, an Area Where the Disease Is Not Endemic: Trends by Different Molecular Approaches.

Flores-Chávez MD, Abras A, Ballart C, Ibáñez-Perez I, Perez-Gordillo P, Gallego M, Muñoz C, Moure Z, Sulleiro E, Nieto J, García Diez E, Simón L, Cruz I, Picado A
Trypanosoma cruzi infection has expanded globally through human migration. In Spain, the mother-to-child route is the mode of transmission contributing to autochthonous Chagas disease (CD); however, most people acquired the infection in their country of origin and were diagnosed in the chronic phase (imported chronic CD). In this context, we assessed the quantitative potential of the Loopamp Trypanosoma cruzi detection kit (Sat-TcLAMP) based on satellite DNA (Sat-DNA) to determine parasitemia levels compared to those detected by real-time quantitative PCRs (qPCRs) targeting Sat-DNA (Sat-qPCR) and kinetoplast DNA minicircles (kDNA-qPCR). This study included 173 specimens from 39 autochthonous congenital and 116 imported chronic CD cases diagnosed in Spain. kDNA-qPCR showed higher sensitivity than Sat-qPCR and Sat-TcLAMP. According to all quantitative approaches, parasitemia levels were significantly higher in congenital infection than in chronic CD (1 × 10-1 to 5 × 105 versus >1 × 10-1 to 6 × 103 parasite equivalents/mL, respectively [P < 0.001]). Sat-TcLAMP, Sat-qPCR, and kDNA-qPCR results were equivalent at high levels of parasitemia (P = 0.381). Discrepancies were significant for low levels of parasitemia and older individuals. Differences between Sat-TcLAMP and Sat-qPCR were not qualitatively significant, but estimations of parasitemia using Sat-TcLAMP were closer to those by kDNA-qPCR. Parasitemia changes were assessed in 6 individual cases in follow-up, in which trends showed similar patterns by all quantitative approaches. At high levels of parasitemia, Sat-TcLAMP, Sat-qPCR, and kDNA-qPCR worked similarly, but significant differences were found for the low levels characteristic of late chronic CD. A suitable harmonization strategy needs to be developed for low-level parasitemia detection using Sat-DNA- and kDNA-based tests. IMPORTANCE Currently, molecular equipment has been introduced into many health care centers, even in low-income countries. PCR, qPCR, and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) are becoming more accessible for the diagnosis of neglected infectious diseases. Chagas disease (CD) is spreading worldwide, and in countries where the disease is not endemic, such as Spain, the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is transmitted from mother to child (congenital CD). Here, we explore why LAMP, aimed at detecting T. cruzi parasite DNA, is a reliable option for the diagnosis of congenital CD and the early detection of reactivation in chronic infection. When the parasite load is high, LAMP is equivalent to any qPCR. In addition, the estimations of T. cruzi parasitemia in patients living in Spain, a country where the disease is not endemic, resemble natural evolution in areas of endemicity. If molecular tests are introduced into the diagnostic algorithm for congenital infection, early diagnosis and timely treatment would be accomplished, so the interruption of vertical transmission can be an achievable goal.