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Investigation of Volatile Organic Compounds Emitted from Faeces for the Diagnosis of Giardiasis

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Ashley Bond1, April Vernon1, Sophie Reade1, Arno Mayor1, Corrado Minetti2, Jonathan Wastling2, Kenneth Lamden3, Chris Probert1

1) Department of Gastroenterology, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool;
2) Department of Infection Biology, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool;
3) Cumbria and Lancashire Public Health England Centre, Public Health England, York House, Chorley UK



Background: Giardiasis is a common intestinal infection caused by the flagellated intestinal protozoan Giardia duodenalis. Several methods are available for the laboratory diagnosis of Giardia, ranging from the microscopic identification of the parasite trophozoite and cyst stages, to immunodiagnosis and PCR. Giardia has unique metabolic pathways resulting from its lack of mitochondria, making it an ideal target for volatile organic compound (VOC) profiling.

Aim: To characterise the VOC profile of stool infected with Giardia to detect differences from those found in samples of diarrhoea without Giardia or other infections.

Method: Stool was obtained from patients with confirmed Giardia infection and controls with diarrhoea but no identifiable infection. Faecal headspace gas extraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry were used to extract and identify VOCs.

Results: More than 100 VOCs were identified when control and Giardia groups were combined, of which 24 showed significant differences between the two groups (p<0.05). Three VOCs had a significantly greater prevalence amongst Giardia cases (p<0.0001) and 9 VOCs showed a significant difference in terms of abundance (p<0.05). AUROC analysis demonstrated a value of 0.902.

Conclusion: There is a significant difference in the VOC profile of stool from subjects infected with Giardia spp, when compared with non-infected controls. These findings can be explained by the unique metabolism of Giardia.

Key words: Giardiasis − volatile organic compounds – diarrhoea.