Technique was developed by PUCRS Biomedical Parasitology Group
The diagnostic method for schistosomiasis developed by PUCRS Biomedical Parasitology Group, in partnership with University of Queensland and University Of Western Australia, both from Australia, has earned international recognition. Known as Helmintex, the technique stands out for its high sensitivity, as it can detect the magnetic properties of the parasite’s eggs. The unprecedented technique, which makes it possible to separate the eggs from the rest of the sample, was developed 13 years ago at the laboratory coordinated by School of Sciences professor Dr Carlos Graeff.
The technique has been recently discussed in two articles published in the PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases (PLoS NTD), a journal of reference in tropical diseases. The first article, “Evaluation of diagnostic methods for the detection of intestinal schistosomiasis in endemic areas with low parasite loads: Saline gradient, Helmintex, Kato-Katz and rapid urine test”, was published in February. The paper resulted from a study involving the PUCRS team, and was coordinated by Dr Stefan Geiger, from Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), and Dr Paulo Marcos Coelho, from FIOCRUZ-Minas.
Students from the Graduate Program in Zoology and Graduate Program in Medicine , Catieli Lindholz and Vivian Favero, have had their article published in PLos NTD, in March. The article “Study of diagnostic accuracy of Helmintex, Kato-Katz, and POC-CCA methods for diagnosing intestinal schistosomiasis in Candeal, a low intensity transmission area in northeastern Brazil” presents the findings of an investigation they carried out in the south of Sergipe. The findings of the research have propelled the researchers to choose Helmintex as a “gold-standard” method in a multicentric study for the assessment of diagnostic methods, coordinated by the Office for Health Surveillance of the Ministry of Health of Brazil.
Helmintex has become highly popular in several institutions, agencies and governments of different countries because of its several applications. Dr Graeff claims that in addition to being used as a reference in assessing methods and antigens, there are two other important uses for it. Due to the sensitivity of diagnosis, it can be used to attest the elimination of schistosomiasis in low endemic areas, which would be helpful for the allocations of public funds in the area of healthcare. It is also efficient as an individual clinical diagnostic method for its highly negative predictive value ensures the cure of the disease.
The group collaborates with the US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDCP) and with Queens University Belfast (Ireland), where former student from the Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Biology Dr Carolina Veríssimo carries out her postdoctoral research as she compares the Helmitex with other serological tests. Two antigens, one from each institution have been sent to the laboratory to be tested by student Catieli Lindholz.
In addition to that, PUCRS is working on the development of a cooperation agreement with University of Nairobi, Kenya. In Dr Graeff’s view, this would be a very important partnerships since schistosomiasis is highly prevalent in Africa. Another institution the university is working on the development of a cooperation agreement with is the Sun Yat Sen University, from Guangzhou, China, where former student from the Graduate Program in Zoology Dr Bianca Cognato serves as Research Fellow.
International Symposium on Neglected Diseases
Dr Carlos Graeff has been invited to give a lecture at the 4th Symposium on Surveillance-Response Systems Leading to Tropical Disease Eliminations, in Shanghai, China, in June. He will introduce the audience to Helmintex and discuss the diagnosis of schistosomiasis in low transmission areas. The Symposium is sponsored by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) and by Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).