Vol 67, No 4 (2016)
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Published online: 2016-12-23

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Detection of Giardia intestinalis infections in Polish soldiers deployed to Afghanistan

Krzysztof Korzeniewski, Monika Konior, Alina Augustynowicz, Anna Lass, Ewa Kowalska
Pubmed: 28009386
IMH 2016;67(4):243-247.


Background: Members of the Polish Military Contingent (PMC) have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2002. They typically serve in areas characterised by low standards of sanitation which often leads to the development of food- and waterborne diseases. The aim of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of Giardia intestinalis infections among Polish soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. The research study was conducted as part of a programme for prevention of parasitic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract run by the Polish Armed Forces.

Materials and methods: The study was carried out in August 2011; it involved 630 asymptomatic Polish soldiers serving in the Forward Operational Base (FOB) Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan. Stool specimens obtained from members of the PMC were first tested in FOB Ghazni (detection of Giardia intestinalis by Rida Quick Giardia immunochromatographic tests and Ridascreen Giardia immunoenzymatic tests — single samples). Next, the same biological material and two other faecal specimens fixed in 10% formalin were transported to the Military Institute of Medicine in Poland, where they were tested for Giardia intestinalis under light microscopy (direct smear, decantation in distilled water).

Results: Parasitological tests performed under light microscopy showed that 2.7% (17/630) of the study group were infected with Giardia intestinalis. Some of these results were confirmed by immunochromatographic tests (6/630). In contrast, immunoenzymatic tests (ELISA) demonstrated a significantly higher detection rate reaching 18.1% (114/630). Immunoenzymatic tests confirmed all the positive results given by light microscopy and by immunochromatographic tests.

Conclusions: The prevalence rate of Giardia intestinalis infections in Polish soldiers deployed to Afghanistan was found to be high. Microscopic methods exhibit low sensitivity and therefore may result in the underestimation of the true parasite prevalence. Immunoenzymatic tests (ELISA) showing a much higher sensitivity in comparison to light microscopy and immunochromatographic tests ought to be applied in screening for intestinal protozoan infections in areas characterised by harsh environmental conditions.  

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