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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Digital PCR: modern solution to parasite diagnostics and population trait genetics

Baltrusis, Paulius; Hoglund, Johan


The use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic approaches has steadily increased in the field of parasitology in recent decades. The most recent large-scale technological modification of the PCR formula, also known as third-generation PCR, came in the form of digital PCR (dPCR). Currently, the most common form of dPCR on the market is digital droplet PCR (ddPCR). Unlike quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR), the digital format allows for highly sensitive, absolute quantification of nucleic acid targets and does not require external standards to be included in the developed assays. Dividing each sample into thousands of compartments and using statistical models also eliminates the need for technical replicates. With unprecedented sensitivity and enforcement of binary endpoint reactions, ddPCR not only allows the use of tiny sample volumes (especially important when working with limited amounts of DNA) but also minimises the impact of variations in amplification efficiency and the presence of inhibitors. As ddPCR is characterised by excellent features such as high throughput, sensitivity and robust quantification, it is widely used as a diagnostic tool in clinical microbiology. Due to recent advances, both the theoretical background and the practical, current applications related to the quantification of nucleic acids of eukaryotic parasites need to be updated. In this review, we present the basics of this technology (particularly useful for new users) and consolidate recent advances in the field with a focus on applications to the study of helminths and protozoan parasites.


ddPCR; Diagnosis; Parasite; Resistance; eDNA

Published in

Parasites and Vectors
2023, Volume: 16, number: 1, article number: 143
Publisher: BMC