by Weam I. Zaky, Francesca R. Tomaino, Nils Pilotte, Sandra J. Laney, Steven A. Williams
Currently, molecular xenomonitoring efforts for lymphatic filariasis rely on PCR or real-time PCR-based detection of Brugia malayi, Brugia timori and Wuchereria bancrofti in mosquito vectors. Most commonly, extraction of DNA from mosquitoes is performed using silica column-based technologies. However, such extractions are both time consuming and costly, and the diagnostic testing which follows typically requires expensive thermal cyclers or real-time PCR instruments. These expenses present significant challenges for laboratories in many endemic areas. Accordingly, in such locations, there exists a need for inexpensive, equipment-minimizing diagnostic options that can be transported to the field and implemented in minimal resource settings. Here we present a novel diagnostic approach for molecular xenomonitoring of filarial parasites in mosquitoes that uses a rapid, NaOH-based DNA extraction methodology coupled with a portable, battery powered PCR platform and a test strip-based DNA detection assay. While the research reported here serves as a proof-of-concept for the backpack PCR methodology for the detection of filarial parasites in mosquitoes, the platform should be easily adaptable to the detection of W. bancrofti and other mosquito-transmitted pathogens.
Through comparisons with standard silica column-based DNA extraction techniques, we evaluated the performance of a rapid, NaOH-based methodology for the extraction of total DNA from pools of parasite-spiked vector mosquitoes. We also compared our novel test strip-based detection assay to real-time PCR and conventional PCR coupled with gel electrophoresis, and demonstrated that this method provides sensitive and genus-specific detection of parasite DNA from extracted mosquito pools. Finally, by comparing laboratory-based thermal cycling with a field-friendly miniaturized PCR approach, we have demonstrated the potential for the point-of-collection-based use of this entire diagnostic platform that is compact enough to fit into a small backpack.
Because this point-of-collection diagnostic platform eliminates reliance on expensive and bulky instrumentation without compromising sensitivity or specificity of detection, it provides an alternative to cost-prohibitive column-dependent DNA extractions that are typically coupled to detection methodologies requiring advanced laboratory infrastructure. In doing so, this field-ready system should increase the feasibility of molecular xenomonitoring within B. malayi-endemic locations. Of greater importance, this backpack PCR system also provides the proof-of-concept framework for the development of a parallel assay for the detection of W. bancrofti.
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