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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2011 Nov;85(5):815-7. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2011.11-0299.

Nuclear magnetic resonance: a tool for malaria diagnosis?

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School of Physics, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia.


Malaria control can be improved by rapid, sensitive, low-cost detection of infection. Several such strategies are being pursued. Rapid diagnostic tests can detect infections at parasite densities above 200 μL(-1). Polymerase chain reaction methods can detect low parasite densities, but are slow and prone to contamination under field conditions. Methods that detect hemozoin presence in blood have been proposed as alternatives for rapid detection of infection. In this study, we used a benchtop nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) device to detect hemozoin. This device could be deployed in malaria-endemic settings. We measured synthetic hemozoin in phosphate-buffered saline and malaria parasites in human blood. The NMR detected hemozoin in suspensions of 4 ng μL(-1) and parasites at densities of 8,000-10,000 μL(-1) (0.2% parasitemia). Thus, our preliminary NMR approach, although providing very rapid measurements, is unlikely to achieve the required sensitivity and specificity for malaria diagnosis, unless a preliminary concentration step is performed.

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