The specific identification of broad tapeworms (genus Diphyllobothrium) infecting humans is very difficult to perform by morphological observation. Molecular analysis by PCR and sequencing represents the only reliable tool to date to identify these parasites to the species level. Due to the recent spread of human diphyllobothriosis in several countries, a correct diagnosis has become crucial to better understand the distribution and the life cycle of human-infecting species as well as to prevent the introduction of parasites to disease-free water systems. Nevertheless, PCR and sequencing, although highly precise, are too complicated, long, and expensive to be employed in medical laboratories for routine diagnostics. In the present study we optimized a cheap and rapid molecular test for the differential identification of the most common Diphyllobothrium species infecting humans (D. latum, D. dendriticum, D. nihonkaiense, and D. pacificum), based on a multiplex PCR with the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 gene of mitochondrial DNA.
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