3 years ago

Multiplex real-time PCR for diagnosing malaria in a non-endemic setting: a prospective comparison to conventional methods

R. H. T. Nijhuis, L. van Lieshout, J. J. Verweij, E. C. J. Claas, E. Wessels


Almost a decade ago our diagnostic laboratory implemented an in-house real-time PCR for the detection of Plasmodium DNA to diagnose malaria in parallel with conventional diagnostics, i.e., microscopy (thick and thin smears), quantitative buffy coat microscopy (QBC), and a rapid diagnostic test (RDT). Here we report our experiences and make a comparison between the different diagnostic procedures used in this non-endemic setting. All patients during the period February 2009–December 2017 suspected of malaria were prospectively tested at the moment of sample collection. Both PCR and conventional malaria diagnostics were carried out on a total of 839 specimens from 825 patients. In addition, three Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) patients were closely followed by real-time PCR and microscopy after treatment. Overall, 56 samples (55 patients) tested positive by real-time PCR, of which six were missed by microscopy and seven by QBC. RDT showed fairly good results in detecting Pf, whereas specificity was not optimal. RDT failed to detect 10 of 17 non-Pf PCR positive specimens. One Plasmodium malariae patient would have been missed if only conventional diagnostic tests had been used. The high sensitivity of the PCR was confirmed by the number of PCR positive, microscopy negative post-treatment samples. In conclusion, within our routine diagnostic setting, malaria real-time PCR not only showed a high level of agreement with the conventional methods used, but also showed higher sensitivity and better specificity. Still, for complete replacement of the conventional procedures in a non-endemic setting, the time-to-results of the real-time PCR is currently too long.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10096-018-3378-4

DOI: 10.1007/s10096-018-3378-4

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