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Malar J. 2012 Jun 10;11:190. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-11-190.

Simultaneous detection of Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes in clinical isolates by multiplex-nested RT-PCR.

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Molecular Biology of Malaria and Opportunistic Parasites Research Unit, Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok 10330, Thailand.



Gametocyte carriage is essential for malaria transmission and endemicity of disease; thereby it is a target for malaria control strategies. Malaria-infected individuals may harbour gametocytes below the microscopic detection threshold that can be detected by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) targeting gametocyte-specific mRNA. To date, RT-PCR has mainly been applied to the diagnosis of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes but very limited for that of Plasmodium vivax.


A multiplex-nested RT-PCR targeting Pfs25 and Pvs25 mRNA specific to mature gametocytes of P. falciparum and P. vivax, respectively, was developed. The assay was evaluated using blood samples collected in rainy and dry seasons from febrile patients,in a malaria-endemic area in Thailand. Malaria diagnosis was performed by Giemsa-stained blood smears and 18S rRNA PCR.


The multiplex-nested RT-PCR detected Pfs25 mRNA in 75 of 86 (87.2%) P. falciparum-infected individuals and Pvs25 mRNA in 82 of 90 (91.1%) P. vivax malaria patients diagnosed by 18S rRNA PCR. Gametocytes were detected in 38 (eight P. falciparum and 30 P. vivax) of 157 microscopy positive samples, implying that a large number of patients harbour sub-microscopic gametocytaemia. No seasonal differences in gametocyte carriage were observed for both malaria species diagnosed by multiplex-nested RT-PCR. With single-nested RT-PCR targeting Pfs25 or Pvs25 mRNA as standard, the multiplex-nested RT-PCR offered sensitivities of 97.4% and 98.9% and specificities of 100% and 98.8% for diagnosing mature gametocytes of P. falciparum and P. vivax, respectively. The minimum detection limit of the multiplex-nested PCR was 10 copies of templates.


The multiplex-nested RT-PCR developed herein is useful for simultaneous assessment of both P. falciparum and P. vivax gametocyte carriage that is prevalent and generally sympatric in several malaria-endemic areas outside Africa.

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