Comparison of PCR assays to detect Toxoplasma gondii oocysts in green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus)

Alicia Coupe, Laryssa Howe, Karen Shapiro, Wendi D. Roe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Toxoplasma gondii is recognised as an important pathogen in the marine environment, with oocysts carried to coastal waters in overland runoff. Currently, there are no standardised methods to detect T. gondii directly in seawater to assess the extent of marine ecosystem contamination, but filter-feeding shellfish may serve as biosentinels. A variety of PCR-based methods have been used to confirm presence of T. gondii DNA in marine shellfish; however, systematic investigations comparing molecular methods are scarce. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate analytical sensitivity and specificity of two nested-PCR (nPCR) assays targeting dhps and B1 genes and two real-time (qPCR) assays targeting the B1 gene and a 529-bp repetitive element (rep529), for detection of T. gondii. These assays were subsequently validated for T. gondii detection in green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) haemolymph using oocyst spiking experiments. All assays could reliably detect 50 oocysts spiked into mussel haemolymph. The lowest limit of detection was 5 oocysts using qPCR assays, with the rep529 primers performing best, with good correlation between oocyst concentrations and Cq values, and acceptable efficiency. Assay specificity was evaluated by testing DNA from closely related protozoans, Hammondia hammondi, Neospora caninum, and Sarcocystis spp. Both nPCR assays were specific to T. gondii. Both qPCR assays cross-reacted with Sarcocystis spp. DNA, and the rep529 primers also cross-reacted with N. caninum DNA. These studies suggest that the rep529 qPCR assay may be preferable for future mussel studies, but direct sequencing is required for definitive confirmation of T. gondii DNA detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalParasitology Research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Perna canaliculus green-lipped mussel
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • rep529 repetitive element, B1 gene, dhps gene
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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