Significant differences in the life histories of the human hookworms Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus necessitate their differentiation for epidemiological studies and the design of control programs. Current methods of identification require time-consuming, labor-intensive techniques. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method that enables rapid species identification is described. The mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I genes of both species were sequenced, and species-specific primer sets were designed. The primers were used in PCR to amplify 585-bp fragments of the cytochrome oxidase gene from individual hookworm eggs, larvae, and adults. The technique was also able to identify mixed infections containing equal amounts of eggs from each species. The technique is rapid, technically simple, and sensitive and will permit the accurate identification of human hookworms in epidemiological field studies.

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