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BACKGROUND: Trichinellosis, caused by a parasitic nematode of the genus Trichinella, is a zoonosis that affects people worldwide. After ingesting raw meat containing Trichinella spp. larvae, patients show signs of myalgia, headaches, and facial and periorbital edema, and severe cases may die from myocarditis and heart failure. The molecular mechanisms of trichinellosis are unclear, and the sensitivity of the diagnostic methods used for this disease are unsatisfactory. Metabolomics is an excellent tool for studying disease progression and biomarkers; however, it has never been applied to trichinellosis. We aimed to elucidate the impacts of Trichinella infection on the host body and identify potential biomarkers using metabolomics. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Mice were infected with T. spiralis larvae, and sera were collected before and 2, 4, and 8 weeks after infection. Metabolites in the sera were extracted and identified using untargeted mass spectrometry. Metabolomic data were annotated via the XCMS online platform and analyzed with Metaboanalyst version 5.0. A total of 10,221 metabolomic features were identified, and the levels of 566, 330, and 418 features were significantly changed at 2-, 4-, and 8-weeks post-infection, respectively. The altered metabolites were used for further pathway analysis and biomarker selection. A major pathway affected by Trichinella infection was glycerophospholipid metabolism, and glycerophospholipids comprised the main metabolite class identified. Receiver operating characteristic revealed 244 molecules with diagnostic power for trichinellosis, with phosphatidylserines (PS) being the primary lipid class. Some lipid molecules, e.g., PS (18:0/19:0)[U] and PA (O-16:0/21:0), were not present in metabolome databases of humans and mice, thus they may have been secreted by the parasites. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our study highlighted glycerophospholipid metabolism as the major pathway affected by trichinellosis, hence glycerophospholipid species are potential markers of trichinellosis. The findings of this study represent the initial steps in biomarker discovery that may benefit future trichinellosis diagnosis.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS Negl Trop Dis

Publication Date





Animals, Humans, Mice, Trichinella spiralis, Trichinellosis, Antibodies, Helminth, Trichinella, Larva, Lipids