Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health
Home About us Ahead Of Print Instructions Submission Subscribe Advertise Contact e-Alerts Editorial Board Login 
Users Online:220
  Print this page  Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size

Table of Contents   
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 163-167
A comparative study of different methods used in the detection of Giardia lamblia on fecal specimens of children

1 Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Muhammad Medical College, Mirpurkhas, India
2 Department of Microbiology, Basic Medical Science Institute, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Karachi, Pakistan
3 Civil Hospital, Hyderabad and Liaquat University of Health Sciences Jamshoroo, India
4 Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Dow University and Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Web Publication17-Jul-2012


Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare results obtained using a single fecal specimen for ova and parasite (O and P) examination, direct immunofluorescent assay (DFA), and two conventional staining methods. Design: Fecal specimens of 150 children were collected and examined by each method. The O and P and the DFA were used as the reference methods. Setting: The study was performed at the laboratory in the Basic Medical Science Institute JPMC Karachi. Materials and Methods: The fecal specimens were collected from children with a suspected Giardia lamblia infection. Agreement and disagreement between the methods was determined based on (1) the presence of giardiasis in our population and (2) the sensitivity and specificity of each method. Results: There was 45 (30%) positive and 105 (70%) negative cases found with DFA, 41 (27.4%) positive and 109 (72.6%) negative cases detected by iodine method, and 34 (22.6%) positive and 116 (77.4%) negative cases found with saline method. The sensitivity and specificity of DFA in comparison to iodine were 92.2 and 92.7%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of DFA in comparison to saline method were 91.2 and 87.9%, respectively. The sensitivities of iodine method and saline method in comparison to DFA were 82.2 and 68.8%, respectively. There is marked difference in sensitivity of DFA compared to conventional methods. Conclusion: The study supported the findings of other investigators who concluded that DFA method has the greatest sensitivity. The immunologic methods were more efficient and quicker than the conventional O and P method.

Keywords: Detection, feces, Giardia lamblia, giardiasis, immunofluorescence, microorganisms

How to cite this article:
Baig MF, Kharal SA, Qadeer SA, Badvi JA. A comparative study of different methods used in the detection of Giardia lamblia on fecal specimens of children. Ann Trop Med Public Health 2012;5:163-7

How to cite this URL:
Baig MF, Kharal SA, Qadeer SA, Badvi JA. A comparative study of different methods used in the detection of Giardia lamblia on fecal specimens of children. Ann Trop Med Public Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Apr 14];5:163-7. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The intestinal protozoon, Giardia, the causative agent of giardiasis, was first described over 300 years ago by Leeuwenhoek. Giardia lamblia is a flagellated protozoon that infects the small intestines of humans and is a major cause of intestinal infection throughout the world. [1] Prevalence rates in children in developed countries are quoted as 2-5% but is up to 20-30% in the developing countries. [2] It is much more common in children than in adults, especially in children under 10 years of age, the prevalence is 2-7 times greater than in adults. [3] The Giardia trophozoite exhibits a characteristic pear, or teardrop, shape with bilateral symmetry when viewed from the top. It is typically 12-15 μm long, 5-10 μm wide, and 2-4 μm thick. Characteristic features of the stained trophozoite include two nuclei with central karyosomes, fibrils running the length of the parasite, and median bodies. The large karyosome and lack of peripheral chromatin gives the nuclei the appearance of a halo. The fibrils are called axonemes and are formed from the proximal regions of the flagella within the body of the trophozoite. The median bodies are a pair of curved rod-shaped structures, which lie posterior to the nuclei. At the ultrastructural level, the median bodies contain an array of microtubules. The functions of the median bodies are not known, but most believe that they are somehow involved with the adhesive disk and its formation. An adhesive disk, not always visible by light microscopy, occupies the ventral side of the anterior end. The Giardia cyst has four nuclei usually located at the anterior end of the cyst. The flagella and adhesive disk are lost as the cyst matures, but the axonemes and median bodies persist. The distinctive fibrils (i.e., axonemes) extend across the length of the cyst. [4]

There is no "gold standard" for the detection of G. lamblia. Stool examination is the traditional, safest and easiest method. [5] The initial method of diagnosis is by demonstration of the trophozoite or cysts of G. lamblia in the stool by microscopy or stool antigen detection by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Other methods of diagnosis include examination of duodenal contents by aspiration or biopsy with endoscopies. A definitive diagnosis may require repeated stool examinations, fecal immunoassays, or even sampling of the upper intestinal contents. [6] Direct investigations involving stool examination by indirect fluorescent antibody (IFA) or ELISA are also an effective means of diagnosis. [2] Serology and stool culture are generally unnecessary. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, while only experimental, may be effective for screening water supplies. [7] The fluorescence stating techniques proved more sensitive than other tests routinely used for diagnosis. [8] The direct immunofluorescent-monoclonal antibodies method resulted in a significantly increased detection rate of Giardia.[9] Furthermore, the monoclonal antibody reagents offer increased sensitivity and an excellent alternative to conventional staining methods. These reagents are helpful when screening large number of patients or those with minimal symptoms. Problem of false-positive and false-negative results with routine staining methods for stool parasites can be eliminated with monoclonal antibody reagents. [10] Giardia direct immunofluorescence test (MERIFLUOR® ) showed 100% sensitivity and specificity. Comparison of two different ELISAs showed sensitivities of 92 and 87% and specificities of 87% and 91%, respectively. [11]

Effective means of protection against giardiasis exist and include good hand hygiene, avoiding ingestion of surface water, and preferably drinking only bottled water, or when bottled water is not available, disinfecting/filtering the drinking water. Such advice should be followed by persons traveling to areas with less than optimal hygienic conditions. Special attention, before and after travel, should be given to parents of young children. [12]

Nitroimidazoles: The nitroimidazole class of agents used to treat G. lamblia infection includes metronidazole, tinidazole, ornidazole, and secnidazole. Metronidazol (-hydroxyethyl)-2-methyl-5-nitroimidazole). [13]

   Materials and Methods Top

One hundred and fifty fecal specimens from children with suspected G. lamblia infection were collected for Giardia testing. Each specimen was coded and processed separately to eliminate the possibility of observer bias. Specimens were collected in a 10% formalin vial to perform the direct wet mount. The traditional ova and parasite (O and P) method was performed with the specimen from the 10% formalin vial and included microscopic examination of saline and iodine direct wet mount. [14] Testing by immunological method included product from manufacturer (waterborne™). [15] The ST102R.Girdi-a-Glo assay utilized the principle of direct immunofluorescence (DFA). The "detection reagent" contained a mixture of labeled monoclonal antibodies directed against cell wall antigens of Giardia cysts. A smear of the fecal specimen was treated with the detection reagent and then counterstained. The slides were rinsed to remove unbound antibodies, a cover slip was mounted, and the slides were examined for fluorescent apple green color and characteristic morphology of Giardia cysts using a fluorescent microscope [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Picture show DFA

Click here to view

   Results Top

Giardiasis was positive in 45 (30%) and negative in 105 (70%) cases when DFA was used; on using iodine, there were 41 (27.4%) positive, 109 (72.6%) negative cases, and with saline method 34 (22.6%) positive and 116 (77.4%) negative cases were identified. More number of males were found to be positive than females by all three methods. Also, the highest number of positive cases was found in the age group 1-5 years in all three methods. The mean age was found to be 4-5 years by all three methods. The sensitivity of DFA method in comparison to iodine method for giardiasis is shown in [Table 1] and [Figure 1]. The sensitivity was 90.2%, specificity was 92.7%, positive predictive value (PPV) was 82.2%, and negative predictive value (NPV) was 96.2%. There were 8 (5.3%) false-positive and 4 (2.6%) false-negative cases with DFA in comparison to iodine. The sensitivity and specificity of DFA in comparison to saline method were 91.2 and 87.9%, respectively [Table 2] and [Figure 2]. PPV was 82.2% and NPV was 92.7%. There were 8 (5.3%) false-positive and 4 (2.6%) false-negative cases in comparison to iodine method. The sensitivity of iodine method and saline method in comparison to DFA were 82.2 and 68.8%, respectively.
Figure 2: (a,b) The sensitivity and specificity of DFA in comparison to saline methods

Click here to view
Table 1: Sensitivity and specificity of DFA in comparison to iodine for giardiasis

Click here to view
Table 2: Sensitivity and specificity of DFA in comparison to saline for giardiasis

Click here to view

   Discussion Top

In this study, 27.3% were found to be positive with iodine method, 22.6% were positive with saline method and 30% were found positive with DFA, for giardiasis. In a study conducted by Zimmerman and Needham, [16] they found 6.4% positive cases for giradiasis detected by MERIFLUOR DFA. In, Garcia et al. [10] found a prevalence rate of 27.0% with DFA, which is in accordance with this study. In the present study, 27.3% positive cases of giardiasis were found by the conventional method. Shakkoury and Wandy [17] found a prevalence of 78% in children by the conventional method in 2005. The study conducted by Al-Mekhlafi et al,[18] also showed a prevalence rate of 24.9% in children. In epidemiological meaning, the prevalence may not be established because of the limited number of cases in these studies.

The prevalence of giradiasis was found to be highest in childhood by Hokelek and Nissen. [19] In the present study, the highest number of positive cases was found in the age group of 1-5 years, in all three methods. This shows that peak age of 4-5 years is more vulnerable to giardiasis. Kazi et al, [20] found peak age of 4 years, which is in agreement with this study. Pennardt [21] reported that giardiasis has a peak rate of 15-20% in children younger than 10 years, which is also in agreement with the results of this study.

In this study, DFA microscopy was found to have 90.2% sensitivity and 92.7% specificity in comparison to the iodine method. With saline method, the sensitivity and specificity were 91.2 and 87.9%, respectively. So, the present study is comparable with that of Zimmerman and Needham conducted, [16] who found the diagnostic sensitivity of MERIFLOUR (DFA) to be 100% and specificity to be 99.8% on control cases, while in this study only suspected cases of giardiasis were included. In the present study, if controls would have been taken, then specificity and sensitivity of DFA could be matched with that of Zimmmerman and Needham. [16] Another study conducted by Zell et al, [22] found 100% sensitivity of DFA on positive donor pool.

Garcia et al,[10] reported that monoclonal antibody reagents offer increased sensitivity and are an excellent alternative to the conventional staining methods as the problems of false-positive and false-negative results with routine staining methods for stool parasites can be eliminated with monoclonal antibody reagents, i.e., DFA.

DFA method, in addition to having excellent specificity, exhibits vastly improved sensitivity over the conventional methods used. These findings supported and supplement the initial experiences of others with this technique. Technologists can become rapidly proficient in the performance of this simple direct immunofluorescence method and allows rapid scanning of stained slides, saving valuable observation time. Additionally, the high quality of reagents results in minimal background autofluorescence or nonspecific staining and enhances the identification of Giardia cyst appearing as bright apple green, which is easy to identify.

False-positive and false-negative cases are reported even by experienced microscopists in the conventional method. In this study, it was found that eight false-negative and four false-positive cases resulted by iodine method in comparison to DFA method. There were 14 false-negative and 3 false-positive cases by saline in comparison to DFA method. This shows that DFA is more superior and effective diagnostic tool than saline and iodine methods for identification of Giardia.

   Conclusion Top

In this study, it was found that DFA is superior to conventional methods for detecting giardiasis. Although the test is considerably more expensive than the conventional staining methods, DFA can replace the conventional method for diagnosis of giardiasis in routine laboratory to minimize the false-positive and false-negative cases. The key role of DFA method is its significance in epidemiological and control studies because of its high sensitivity and specificity and minimal time taken for scanning the slides.

   References Top

1.Adam RD. Biology of Giardia lamblia. Clin Microbiol Rev 2001;14:447-75.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Akram DS. Giardiasis malabsorption and its effect on child health. Pak Pediatr J 2000;24:155-60.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Isani Z, Nizamani KM. A study of secnidazole suspension in the treatment of Giardiasis. Pak Pediatr J 1996;20:4.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Wisher M. Intestinal protozoa. Tulane university. Available from: http://www. [cited in 2006].  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Khan IA. Giardiasis of infancy and childhood: to treat or not to treat? Med Channel 2001;7:1-4  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Yakoob J, Jafri W, Abid S, Jafri N, Hamid S, Shah HA, et al. Giardiasis inpatients with dyspeptic symptom. World J Gastroenterol 2005;11:6667-70.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Kucik CJ, Martin GL, Sortor BV. Common intestinal parasites. Am Family Physician 2004;69:1161-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Tee GH, Moody AH, Cooke AH, Chiodini PL. Comparison of techniques for detecting antigens of Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum in faeces. J Clin Pathol 1993;46:555-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Alles AJ, Waldron MA, Sierra LS, Mattia AR. Prospective comparison of direct immunofluorescence an d conventional staining methods for detection of Giardia and Cryptosporidium species in human fecal specimens. J Clin Microbiol 1995;33:1632-4.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Garcia lS, Shum AC, Bruckner DA. Evaluation of a new monoclonal antibody combination reagent for direct fluorescence detection of Giardia cysts and cryptosporidium oocysts in human fecal specimens. J Clin Microbiol 1992;30:3255-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Heresi G, Cleary TG. Giardia. Pediatr Rev 1997;18:243-7.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Ekdahl K, Andersson Y. Imported Giardiasis: Impact of international travel, immigration and adoption. Am J Trop Med Hyg 2005;72:825-30.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Gardner TB, Hill DR. Treatment of Giardiasis. Clin Microbiol Rev 2001;14:114-28.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Koneman EW, Allen SD, Dowell VR, Sommers HM. Colour Atlas and Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology 2 nd ed, 1998. p. 573-6.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.ST102R.Girdi-a-Glo, Clinical Enviromental parasitology products, 6047, HURST STREET, NEW ORLEANS, LA, USA.   Back to cited text no. 15
16.Zimmerman SK, Needham CA. Comparison of conventional stool concentration and preserved smear methods with merifluor Cryptosporidium/Giardia Direct Immunofluore-scence Assay and ProSpecT Giardia EZ Microplate Assay for detection of Giardia lamblia. J Clin Microbiol 1995;33:1942-43.   Back to cited text no. 16
17.Shakkoury WA, Wandy EA. Prevalence of Giardia lamblia infection in Amman, Jordan. Pak J Med Sci 2005;21:199-201.   Back to cited text no. 17
18.Al-Mekhlafi HM, Azlin MB, Aini UN, Shaik A, Saiah A, Fatmah MS, et al. Protein energy malnutrition and soil transmitted helminthiases among Organ Asli children in Selangor, Malaysia. Asta Pac J Clin 2005;14:188-94.   Back to cited text no. 18
19.Hokelek M, Nissen MD. Giardiasis. eMedicine Last update May 2006. p. 1-14. Available from: http//giardia\emedicine. [cited in 2006].   Back to cited text no. 19
20.Kazi MY, Bhatti MT, Khan HI, Ahmad TM. Efficacy of metronidazole and diloxanide furoate in ameobiasis and giardiasis. Annals 2002;8:283-5.   Back to cited text no. 20
21.Pennardt A, Ervin M, Talavera F, Sheridan BJ, Halamka J, Dronen SC. Giardiasis. eMedicine. Last update 2006.   Back to cited text no. 21
22.Zell SC, Budhraja M, Riggs JL, Sorenson SK. Monoclonal antibody detection of Giardia lamblia cysts in human stool by direct immunofluorescence. J Wilderness Med 1990;1:203-7.  Back to cited text no. 22

Correspondence Address:
Muhammad Farooq Baig
Department of Pathology and Microbiology, Muhammad Medical College, Mirpurkhas
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1755-6783.98604

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Modeling Parasite Infection Dynamics when there Is Heterogeneity and Imperfect Detectability
Na Cui,Yuguo Chen,Dylan S. Small
Biometrics. 2013; 69(3): 683
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Giardia/giardiasis technical progress in diagnosis and genetic analysis
Anson V. Koehler,Aaron R. Jex,Shane R. Haydon,Melita A. Stevens,Robin B. Gasser
Biotechnology Advances. 2013;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *

    Materials and Me...
    Article Figures
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded16    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 2    

Recommend this journal