Giardia duodenalis and Cryptosporidium species are protozoan parasites capable of causing gastrointestinal disease in humans and animals through the ingestion of infective faeces. Whereas Cryptosporidium species can be acquired locally or through foreign travel, there is the mis-conception that giardiasis is considered to be largely travel-associated, which results in differences in laboratory testing algorithms. In order to determine the level of variation in testing criteria and detection methods between diagnostic laboratories for both pathogens across Scotland, an audit was performed. Twenty Scottish diagnostic microbiology laboratories were invited to participate with questions on sample acceptance criteria, testing methods, testing rates and future plans for pathogen detection. Reponses were received from 19 of the 20 laboratories representing each of the 14 territorial Health Boards. Detection methods varied between laboratories with the majority performing microscopy, one using a lateral flow immunochromatographic antigen assay, another using a manually washed plate-based enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and one laboratory trialling a plate-based EIA automated with an EIA plate washer. Whereas all laboratories except one screened every stool for Cryptosporidium species, an important finding was that significant variation in the testing algorithm for detecting Giardia was noted with only four laboratories testing all diagnostic stools. The most common criteria were ‘travel history’ (11 laboratories) and/or ‘when requested’ (14 laboratories). Despite only a small proportion of stools being examined in 15 laboratories for Giardia (2%–18% of the total number of stools submitted), of interest is the finding that a higher positivity rate was observed for Giardia than Cryptosporidium in 10 of these 15 laboratories. These findings highlight that the underreporting of Giardia in Scotland is likely based on current selection and testing algorithms.
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