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Clin Lab Haematol. 2002 Oct;24(5):295-302.

Thrombocytopenia in patients with malaria: automated analysis of optical platelet counts and platelet clumps with the Cell Dyn CD4000 analyser.

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Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, South African Institute for Medical Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.


Platelet counts and automated detection of platelet clumps were evaluated by optical analysis with the Abbott CD4000 analyser (Abbott Diagnostics, Santa Clara, CA, USA) in this South African study of 828 samples referred for malaria investigations. Based on microscopy (Micro) and rapid tests (RT) for HRP2 protein and parasite-associated LDH, malaria negative samples (n = 417) were defined as Micro-, RT-. Convalescent cases (n = 64) were Micro-, RT+ and had a recent record of positive microscopy. Malaria positive cases were subdivided into Micro+ (n = 315) and Micro-, RT+, PCR+ (polymerase chain reaction) (n = 32) subgroups. The mean platelet count for Micro+ cases (89.7 x 10(9)/l) was significantly lower than both the malaria negative (mean 212.6 x 10(9)/l) and convalescent malaria (mean 152.8 x 10(9)/l) groups; 89% of microscopy positive cases were thrombocytopenic (< 150 x 10(9)/l) and 30% had severe thrombocytopenia (< 50 x 10(9)/l). For comparison, 32% of the 417 malaria negative samples were thrombocytopenic and 6% of these were severe. Two thirds of samples with parasitaemia above 10% had platelet counts of < 50 x 10(9)/l while the counts were largely independent of parasite numbers when the parasitaemia was below 10%. Thirty percent of samples with microscopically detectable parasites had a PltClmp flag compared to 13% of the malaria negative group but, when the actual platelet count was taken into account, it became apparent that appearance of the flag was primarily associated with thrombocytopenia per se rather than malaria status. In most samples with a PltClmp flag, the CD4000 optical platelet clump 'signature' was indicative of small platelet aggregates and giant platelets. Morphological examination confirmed the presence of varying numbers of small platelet aggregates (3-12 individual platelets), often together with increased giant platelets, in many samples with a PltClmp flag. The observations suggest that while patients with malaria may be predisposed to the development of thrombocytopenia, a reduced platelet count in some patients may also be due in part to pseudo-thrombocytopenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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