Where Have All the Diagnostic Morphological Parasitologists Gone?

Richard S. Bradbury, Sarah G.H. Sapp, Idzi Potters, Blaine A. Mathison, John Frean, Abhishek Mewara, Harsha Sheorey, Francesca Tamarozzi, Marc Roger Couturier, Peter Chiodini, Bobbi Pritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Advances in laboratory techniques have revolutionized parasitology diagnostics over the past several decades. Widespread implementation of rapid antigen detection tests has greatly expanded access to tests for global parasitic threats such as malaria, while next-generation amplification and sequencing methods allow for sensitive and specific detection of human and animal parasites in complex specimen matrices. Recently, the introduction of multiplex panels for human gastrointestinal infections has enhanced the identification of common intestinal protozoa in feces along with bacterial and viral pathogens. Despite the benefits provided by novel diagnostics, increased reliance on nonmicroscopy-based methods has contributed to the progressive, widespread loss of morphology expertise for parasite identification. Loss of microscopy and morphology skills has the potential to negatively impact patient care, public health, and epidemiology. Molecular- and antigen-based diagnostics are not available for all parasites and may not be suitable for all specimen types and clinical settings. Furthermore, inadequate morphology experience may lead to missed and inaccurate diagnoses and erroneous descriptions of new human parasitic diseases. This commentary highlights the need to maintain expert microscopy and morphological parasitology diagnostic skills within the medical and scientific community. We proposed that light microscopy remains an important part of training and practice in the diagnosis of parasitic diseases and that efforts should be made to train the next generation of morphological parasitologists before the requisite knowledge, skills, and capacity for this complex and important mode of diagnosis are lost. In summary, the widespread, progressive loss of morphology expertise for parasite identification negatively impacts patient care, public health, and epidemiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • arthropods
  • communicable diseases
  • diagnostic errors
  • diagnostics
  • emerging
  • epidemiology
  • helminths
  • histology
  • laboratories
  • metagenomics
  • parasites
  • parasitic diseases
  • protozoa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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