Objective To evaluate the use of a genus-specific PCR that combines high sensitivity with the detection of different Schistosoma species for diagnosis in international travellers and migrants in comparison to standard microscopy. Methods and results The genus-specific real-time PCR was developed to target the 28S ribosomal RNA gene of the major human Schistosoma species. It was validated for analytical specificity and reproducibility and demonstrated an analytical sensitivity of 0.2 eggs per gram of faeces. Its diagnostic performance was further evaluated on 152 faecal, 32 urine and 38 serum samples from patients presenting at the outpatient clinic of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp (Belgium). We detected Schistosoma DNA in 76 faecal (50.0%) and five urine (15.6%) samples of which, respectively, nine and one were not detected by standard microscopy. Only two of the 38 serum samples of patients with confirmed schistosomiasis were positive with the presently developed PCR. Sequence analysis on positive faecal samples allowed identification of the Schistosoma species complex. Conclusion The real-time PCR is highly sensitive and may offer added value in diagnosing imported schistosomiasis. The genus-specific PCR can detect all schistosome species that are infectious to humans and performs very well with faeces and urine, but not in serum. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.