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Malar J. 2014 May 8;13:175. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-13-175.

Nested PCR detection of malaria directly using blood filter paper samples from epidemiological surveys.

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  • 1Dalian Institute of Biotechnology, Dalian, Liaoning, China. luc2@psu.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Nested PCR is considered a sensitive and specific method for detecting malaria parasites and is especially useful in epidemiological surveys. However, the preparation of DNA templates for PCR is often time-consuming and costly.

METHODS:

A simplified PCR method was developed to directly use a small blood filter paper square (2 × 2 mm) as the DNA template after treatment with saponin. This filter paper-based nested PCR method (FP-PCR) was compared to microscopy and standard nested PCR with DNA extracted by using a Qiagen DNA mini kit from filter paper blood spots of 204 febrile cases. The FP-PCR technique was further applied to evaluate malaria infections in 1,708 participants from cross-sectional epidemiological surveys conducted in Myanmar and Thailand.

RESULTS:

The FP-PCR method had a detection limit of ~0.2 parasites/μL blood, estimated using cultured Plasmodium falciparum parasites. With 204 field samples, the sensitivity of the FP-PCR method was comparable to that of the standard nested PCR method, which was significantly higher than that of microscopy. Application of the FP-PCR method in large cross-sectional studies conducted in Myanmar and Thailand detected 1.9% (12/638) and 6.2% (66/1,070) asymptomatic Plasmodium infections, respectively, as compared to the detection rates of 1.3% (8/638) and 0.04% (4/1,070) by microscopy.

CONCLUSION:

This FP-PCR method was much more sensitive than microscopy in detecting Plasmodium infections. It drastically increased the detection sensitivity of asymptomatic infections in cross-sectional surveys conducted in Thailand and Myanmar, suggesting that this FP-PCR method has a potential for future applications in malaria epidemiology studies.

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