Background Diagnosis of toxoplasmic encephalitis (TE) is challenging under the best clinical circum-stances. The poor clinical sensitivity of quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) for Toxoplasma in blood and CSF and the limited availability of molecular diagnostics and imag-ing technology leaves clinicians in resource-limited settings with few options other than empiric treatment. Methology/principle findings Here we describe proof of concept for a novel urine diagnostics for TE using Poly-N-Isopro-pylacrylamide nanoparticles dyed with Reactive Blue-221 to concentrate antigens, substan-tially increasing the limit of detection. After nanoparticle-concentration, a standard western blotting technique with a monoclonal antibody was used for antigen detection. Limit of detection was 7.8pg/ml and 31.3pg/ml of T. gondii antigens GRA1 and SAG1, respectively. To characterize this diagnostic approach, 164 hospitalized HIV-infected patients with neurologi-cal symptoms compatible with TE were tested for 1) T. gondii serology (121/147, positive samples/total samples tested), 2) qPCR in cerebrospinal fluid (11/41), 3) qPCR in blood (10/ 112), and 4) urinary GRA1 (30/164) and SAG1 (12/164). GRA1 appears to be superior to SAG1 for detection of TE antigens in urine. Fifty-one HIV-infected, T. gondii seropositive but asymptomatic persons all tested negative by nanoparticle western blot and blood qPCR, suggesting the test has good specificity for TE for both GRA1 and SAG1. In a subgroup of 44 patients, urine samples were assayed with mass spectrometry parallel-reaction-monitor-ing (PRM) for the presence of T. gondii antigens. PRM identified antigens in 8 samples, 6 of which were concordant with the urine diagnostic. Conclusion/significances Our results demonstrate nanoparticle technology’s potential for a noninvasive diagnostic test for TE. Moving forward, GRA1 is a promising target for antigen based diagnostics for TE.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0009199
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Steinberg et al.


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