A simple and convenient PCR method that amplifies the 18S rRNA genes has been developed for the purpose of detecting and differentiating four species causing malaria in humans. The advantage of the assay is that the biotinylated PCR product is visualized following hybridization with specific probes which are immobilized on plate wells (microtiter plate hybridization). This method has been previously evaluated in a field study and was found to be sensitive and specific for the detection of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. In the current study, the microtiter plate hybridization PCR method was evaluated by using blood specimens from malaria patients. All of 36 cases of falciparum malaria, 26 of 27 cases of vivax malaria, all of 11 cases of ovale malaria, and 2 cases of malariae malaria were diagnosed species specifically by the PCR method. There were four smear-negative, PCR- positive cases that seemed to correspond to the convalescent stage of malaria. In contrast, 30 cases for which the diagnosis of malaria has been excluded on the basis of microscopy and clinical courses showed negative PCR results. By comparing parasite densities and PCR results following antimalarial treatment of some patients, it was revealed that the PCR results largely paralleled the parasite densities and that PCR could detect as few as 10 parasites per μl of blood. We conclude that this PCR method is highly sensitive and specific for the detection of all four parasite species and can serve as a useful supplement to microscopy for the clinical management of malaria.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)