New Technique for Diagnosing Lung Parasite Infections in Sea Lions
Parafilaroides decorus, also known as sea lion lungworm, is a metastrongyloid nematode that infects otariid hosts, such as the charismatic California sea lion, Zalophus californianus. P. decorus causes bronchointerstitial pneumonia, respiratory distress, reduced ability to swim, dive and hunt and as a result, increased mortality particularly in young animals. Respiratory disease is a leading cause of stranding and admission to rehabilitation centers on the Pacific coast. Low-coverage genomic sequencing of four P. decorus individuals analyzed through Galaxy's RepeatExplorer identified a novel repeat DNA family we employed to design a sensitive quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay for diagnosing infections from fecal or sputum samples. The assay detects as little as 10 fg of P. decorus DNA and a linear regression model developed using a standard curve can be used to estimate the concentration of P. decorus DNA in a sample, ± 0.015 ng. This knowledge can be leveraged to estimate the level of parasite burden, which can be used to design improved treatments for animals in rehabilitation. Improved treatment of infections will aid in more animals being successfully released back into the wild.
Williams, K.M., Fessler, M.K., Bloomfield, R.A., Sandke, W.D., Malekshahi, C.R., Keroack, C.D., Duignan, P.J., Torquato, S.D. and Williams, S.A., 2020. A novel quantitative real-time PCR diagnostic assay for fecal and nasal swab detection of an otariid lungworm, Parafilaroides decorus. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife.